First posted by sakerfa on January 14, 2009
AMMAN – The Israeli war on the Gaza Strip entered its 17th day Monday as the United Nations and other organizations took Israel to task for human rights violations and war crimes, which include experimenting with new weapons on the civilian population of Gaza.
Palestinian medics said that at least 909 Palestinians, including 280 children and 95 women, have been killed and more than 4,000 injured since Dec. 27, when Israel launched a war that is being condemned in worldwide street protests as a “holocaust.”
Some Arab and international rights groups say they intend to take Israeli leaders to war crime tribunals in and warned that chemical weapons are being used against the civilian population in the impoverished strip.
The HagueThe 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday adopted a resolution accusing Israel of “grave” human rights violations against Palestinians and decided to set up a fact-finding mission to “investigate all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Israel.”
Israel is expected to ban the entry of these investigators.
The UNHRC vote came after the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, told the council that Israel must be held accountable for any violations of international law in Gaza, saying that these breaches “may constitute war crimes for which criminal responsibility may be invoked.”
Israel says its air and ground offensive is to stop Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza, where its 1.5 million residents have been living under a crippling Israeli blockade since Hamas seized control of the Mediterranean strip after ousting the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in June 2007.
However, militant rockets continued to be fired deeper into Israeli territories. Palestinian civilian casualties kept rising, and are expected to continue doing so as Israeli forces push deeper into populated neighborhoods.
The Israeli army confirmed 10 of its soldiers have been killed in combat, and three civilians have died from the rocket attacks in the last 17 days.
Reports from Gaza said the Israeli forces were bulldozing houses and buildings to allow their tanks to move inside some of the areas, and that an aircraft bombed a public square in the center of Gaza City on Monday as people were trying to shop for food during a supposed three-hour Israeli lull in attacks.
The offensive has been described by Arab military strategists as the worst on the narrow strip since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, especially since it involves the world’s fourth largest organized army against a group of ill-equipped fighters in the world’s most densely-populated territory.
The Palestinian civilians have borne the brunt of this warfare, in which Israel is being accused of experimenting with new weapons.
The New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC), based in Genoa, Italy, indicated that Israel was “experimenting with new non-conventional weapons on the civilian population in Gaza,” similar to those Israel used during its 34-day war on Lebanon in 2006.
The committee, made up of independent scientists and doctors studying non-conventional weapons and their medium-term effects on people, said Israel was using “white phosphorous, dense inert metal explosive (DIME), thermobaric bomb, cluster bombs and uranium ammunitions, and experimented novel weapons and delivery modalities.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has concurred, saying that Israel was using white phosphorus, and that its own researchers observed multiple shell-bursts of the chemical material on Jan. 9 and 10 near Gaza City and Jabalya refugee camp. HRW urged Israel against using it in its operations in densely-populated areas.
The rights group said while Israel seemed to be using white phosphorous as an “obscurant,” which is permitted in principle under international humanitarian law, it is a violation to be used in populated areas.
“White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” HRW senior military analyst Marc Garlasco said in a statement.
The Israel army, which refuses to give the international media access to Gaza, said its operational secrecy prevents disclosure of its weaponry but denied the use of white phosphorous shells in the bombing.
Nevertheless, television footage has shown shells falling from Israeli aircraft and then breaking into white spray over buildings, while Gaza doctors said that dozens of victims have been burned in ways that can only be caused by white phosphorous, which sticks to human skin and burns through to the bone, causing death and leaving survivors with painful wounds that are slow to heal.
Physicians in Gaza hospitals have also reported unusual internal injuries that cannot be seen even in x-rays, saying that none of the wounds were visible on the bodies, but were “eating them up from the inside.” They expressed concern that Israel may be using other forms of chemical or even biological weapons on the civilian areas.
The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, John Ging, told reporters outside a Gaza hospital that while he was not a doctor, “I see with my own eyes the horrific injuries … and there will be many inquiries and investigations that will need to take place.” But the priority today, Ging added, is that the “fighting must stop now.”
“More children have died today, and more will die tomorrow unless the fighting stops,” he said. “Those who are doing the killing are responsible for their actions. Those on the political level for not finding solutions are responsible for their failures.”
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Posted on The Islamic Workplace