Sunday, January 18, 2009

Israel accused of war crimes over 12-hour assault on Gaza village.

The Red Cross, the UN and various other human rights organisations are all alleging that Israel has committed war crimes in Gaza.

These include:

In testimony collected from residents of the village of Khuza'a by the Observer, it is claimed that Israeli soldiers entering the village:

• attempted to bulldoze houses with civilians inside;

• killed civilians trying to escape under the protection of white flags;

• opened fire on an ambulance attempting to reach the wounded;

• used indiscriminate force in a civilian area and fired white phosphorus shells.

The Observer have collected witness statements which they say, "are consistent and match the testimony gathered by B'Tselem."

There is also strong visible evidence that Khuza'a came under a sustained attack from tanks and bulldozers that smashed some buildings to pieces.

Pictures taken by photographer Bruno Stevens in the aftermath show heavy damage - and still burning phosphorus. "What I can tell you is that many, many houses were shelled and that they used white phosphorus," said Stevens yesterday, one of the first western journalists to get into Gaza. "It appears to have been indiscriminate." Stevens added that homes near the village that had not been hit by shell fire had been set on fire.

The village of Khuza'a is around 500 metres from the border with Israel. According to B'Tselem, its field researcher in Gaza was contacted last Tuesday by resident Munir Shafik al-Najar, who said that Israeli bulldozers had begun destroying homes at 2.30am.

When Rawhiya al-Najar, aged 50, stepped out of her house waving a white flag, so that the rest of the family could leave the house, she was allegedly shot by Israeli soldiers nearby.

The second alleged incident was on Tuesday afternoon, when Israeli troops ordered 30 residents to leave their homes and walk to a school in the village centre. After travelling 20 metres, troops fired on the group, allegedly killing three.

Further detailed accounts of what occurred were supplied in interviews given to a Palestinian researcher who has been working for the Observer, following the decision by Israel to ban foreign media from the Gaza Strip. Iman al-Najar, 29, said she watched as bulldozers started to destroy neighbours' homes and saw terrified villagers flee from their houses as masonry collapsed.

"By 6am the tanks and bulldozers had reached our house," Iman recalled. "We went on the roofs and tried to show we were civilians with white flags. Everyone was carrying a white flag. We told them we are civilians. We don't have any weapons. The soldiers started to destroy the houses even if the people were in them." Describing the death of Rawhiya, Iman says they were ordered by Israeli soldiers to move to the centre of the town. As they did, Israeli troops opened fire. Rawhiya was at the front of the group, says Iman.

If any of these incidents can be corroborated, then they are clear war crimes. And it's interesting to note that, whilst Israel issues her stock denials, that further evidence is accruing that Israel has used white phosphorus during this assault, the very weapon which Israel has always maintained that she is not using.

If Israel is lying about the use of white phosphorus then one would have to question what else she is lying about.

Despite Israel's constant claim that human rights groups are biased against them, most of us lay great store by the work done by the Red Cross, the UN and other such organisations. If they say war crimes have been committed then it certainly warrants investigation at the very least.


The BBC report on United Nations calls for war crimes to be investigated.

Click title for full article.

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