Thursday, November 26, 2020

Report by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel criticizes Israeli army‘s conduct during Gaza war

By Mona Martin - January 24, 2015
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Gaza] [Operation Protective Edge] [investigations]

A report published by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel last week accuses Israeli military forces of neglecting precautions for the protection of civilian casualties during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

In collaboration with the Palestinian NGO Al-Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) commissioned a fact-finding mission to Gaza in July 2014. Eight independent medical experts were recruited, specialised in relevant fields and unattached to either one of the conflict’s parties. The mission's goal was to assess accusations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by the Israeli army during the 50-day conflict.

The report proceeds on UN estimates that over 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza were killed during seven weeks of hositilies, of whom about 70% were civilians. An additional 11,000 were injured and 100,000 people were rendered homeless due to Israel's widespread bombing campaigns.

On three visits to the Gaza Strip between 19 August and 12 November 2014, the members of the fact-finding mission interviewed 68 people injured during the fighting and reviewed extensive sets of medical files and photographic materials of this summer’s casualties from the morgue of the Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s central hospital in Gaza City.

“The attacks were characterised by heavy and unpredictable bombardments of civilian neighbourhoods in a manner that failed to discriminate between legitimate targets and protected populations and caused widespread destruction of homes and civilian property,” the report’s conclusion states.  

Rescue actions were prevented and medical staff were wounded or killed through repeated attacks of the same locations. Both medical and educational institutions were directly targeted, leaving Gaza's civilian population virtually no true place of shelter. Additionally, and maybe most alarmingly, the report argues the attacks were deliberately ordered by “top-level decision makers in the Israeli military and/or government.”

The IDF rejected the report's conclusions by categorizing the mission’s sources of information as biased. The research relied upon informants mediated by either Physicians for Human Rights-Israel themselves or NGO's located in Gaza, such as the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza --all of which are recipients of either UN funding or financially supported by governmental agencies from Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands. 

So far, Israeli officials have reacted to the report’s accusation of their failure to adequately ensure protection for civilians in Gaza by pointing to their strategy of warning civilians via text message, phone calls and/or the dropping of non-explosive missiles, before attacking. The results of PHR-I report, however, state otherwise. Only 7% of those interviewed by PHR-I who had survived an Israeli airstrike received warnings before their position was hit. Even when warnings were received, the period of time between the warning and the actual strike was almost always too short to allow those inside the structure to get to safety.

While there is an ongoing Israeli army investigation into its own compliance with international law during Operation Protective Edge, PHR-I’s report states its mistrust in the army’s self-investigation, requesting “that the governments of Israel and Egypt permit and facilitate the entry of investigative teams into Gaza, including experts in international human rights law and arms experts.“ Therefore international actors as the UN, the EU and the US are called upon to increase pressure on Israel to enable conclusive analysis of the IDF's conduct in the latest Gaza war. 

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