Minister to U.N.: Investigate Israel for war crimes in Gaza

Palestinian officials are asking the international community to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes in Gaza.
By Gabrielle Levy  |  Aug. 27, 2014 at 8:56 AM
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Maliki has sent a letter urging foreign governments to investigate Israel for war crimes it alleges were committed during the 50-day conflict in Gaza.

Maliki wrote to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the U.K., U.S., France, Australia, Canada, South Africa and five Latin American countries, asking them to exercise their responsibility as U.N. member nations to investigate and try people who allegedly violate international law.

Israeli forces have "committed war crimes during the repeated assaults on Gaza in the present, as in the past," he wrote. "They have engaged in indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. Such actions have caused death and injury to thousands of Palestinian civilians, including children, and massive destruction to civilian properties, in grave breach of international humanitarian and human rights law."

In writing to foreign states, Maliki highlighted the Mahal programs run by the Israeli Defense Forces, which allow 18- to 24-year-old Jewish people who do not hold Israeli citizenship to volunteer for the IDF.

Maliki demands foreign states identify their citizens serving in the IDF and investigate allegations into whether they "were involved in the commission and/or the aiding and abetting of war crimes during the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, and prosecuting these individuals where appropriate."

The U.N. has established a commission to investigate both sides of the conflict for "all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law... in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014," with its report due in March. A similar investigation into the 2008-2009 conflict found both sides committed war crimes.

Israel has accused Hamas of deliberately placing its combatants and military equipment behind civilians and in densely populated areas, using civilians as "human shields."

The death toll in Gaza as the cease-fire came into effect was listed at 2,133 since July 8, some three-quarters of whom were listed as civilians.

The number of civilian casualties has been disputed, however, with media reports relying almost wholly on Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry for death tallies. Health Minister Ashram Al-Qidra openly admits that any fatality not claimed by an armed group is counted as a civilian, while Hamas often refuses to acknowledge its dead.

Israel says at least half of those killed in Gaza were Hamas combatants, with that figure likely to rise once all the names of the dead are vetted by intelligence sources. An Israeli government official, speaking to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, said those estimates are consistent with analysis into the two most recent conflicts between Israel and Gaza, in 2008-2009 and 2012.

An investigation by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a media-monitoring group that works to correct what it says is anti-Israel bias, conducted a study of casualties that found 57 percent of the dead were males between 17 and 39, with a spike occurring with men between 21 and 27, a typical distribution of military combatants.

Hamas, a designated terrorist organization that has been elected to a majority in the Palestinian parliament, said last week it was backing an attempt to join the International Criminal Court in order to take legal action against Israel.

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Topics: Gaza, Hamas
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