On Sunday 14 June 2009, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights published a statistical report entitled, ‘Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers.
’ This report presents figures on the persons killed and property destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during its recent invasion of the Gaza Strip codenamed ‘Operation Cast Lead’.
The report is currently available in Arabic and will be circulated in English soon.
The introduction to the report provides an overview of the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip which was conducted by the IOF during the period 27 January 2008 - 18 January 2009.
The report demonstrates that during this invasion, the IOF perpetrated grave and systematic violations of the rules of international law.
The report further emphasizes that field investigations clearly indicate that the IOF perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, deliberately targeting civilians, forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands and attacking displaced persons who had fled to temporary shelters flying the United Nations flag.
The report highlights the timing of first attacks launched and their surprise nature which indicates an intention on the part of the IOF to cause the highest possible number of civilian casualties and injuries.
In particular, the first wave of attacks coincided with school arrival and departure times placing school children at great risk.
(Gazan schools operate a ‘shift’ system with some children attending morning sessions and others afternoon sessions).
The report also presents the field investigation methodology.
The report provides the numbers of persons killed and extent of property destroyed by the IOF.
During the offensive, the IOF killed or fatally wounded a total of 1410 persons of which 355 were under the age of 18, 110 were women and 240 were resistance fighters.
The IOF also partially or fully destroyed 11,135 homes, 209 industrial premises, 724 commercial establishments, 650 vehicles and 6271 (1000 meters) of agricultural land.
The report presents 16 tables addressing the details of persons killed, including socio-economic information, in addition to information related to the incident.
Details of damage caused to property are also presented.
The numbers of persons killed by unmanned surveillance aircraft (drones) hints that the State of Israel was trying to market its surveillance aircraft, with which hundreds were killed during the Offensive.
The report concludes that Al Mezan investigations, in addition to investigations by other national (Palestinian) and international organizations, present compelling evidence of the perpetration of a large number of grave and systematic violations of international humanitarian law which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity according to the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
These crimes include: wilful killing, including the targeting of houses while the residents were inside without apparent military necessity; shooting civilians waving white flags; indiscriminate use of excessive forces in civilian areas; targeting civilians and civilian objects without distinction, proportionality or military necessity; using civilians as human shields; targeting medical teams; preventing medical access to the injured; refraining from taking any steps to assist and save the lives of the injured; and targeting United Nations premises and teams.
These practices resulted in the killing of large number of civilians.
The report also address the consequences of IOF practices against Gaza residents such as the destruction of water and electricity networks and the blocking and destruction of roads connecting the Gaza Strip, the demolition of large areas of cultivated land and a high number of industrial facilities.
These policies caused immense suffering by heavily restricting access to food and medicines, especially after years of siege and closure, which represents collective punishment of the entire population.
The report also points at the psychological impact of intensive attacks on residential areas, killing and destruction, as well as the indiscriminate use of warnings to civilians across the Gaza Strip in a context where there was no safe place for civilians to go.
The warning announcements were dropped in the centres of towns as well as in the shelters set up by the UN to house the displaced.
The report also addresses the internal Israeli investigation into allegations of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead.
This investigation was declared closed on Wednesday 22 April 2009 by the Israeli military Attorney General 11 days after it commenced.
It concluded that the IOF had operated in accordance with international law and did not perpetrate war crimes during Operation Cast Lead.
The nature of this investigation is a continuation of Israeli practices which offer immunity to its soldiers and leaders.
This requires the doubling of efforts to hold the perpetrators of war crimes, or those who ordered them, accountable through channels afforded by international law.
Al Mezan asserts that this practice of offering immunity confirms the firm conviction of observers of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories that the State of Israel does not have the will to investigate crimes perpetrated by its forces.
Instead, through statements made by its continued leadership, it deliberately encourages them to perpetrate these crimes and assures them that the political leadership will provide full protection to its forces.
Al Mezan further asserts that the State of Israel’s refusal to conduct an investigation in accordance with relevant international standards, and its provision of protection and immunity to members of its armed forces and government who have perpetrated or ordered war crimes, places the moral responsibility on the shoulders of the international community.
Al Mezan stresses that the international community holds both moral and legal responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes in accordance with international legal obligations relevant to the prosecution of war criminals.
Al Mezan condemns in the strongest possible terms the perpetration by the IOF of war crimes in the Gaza Strip.
These crimes continue today through collective punishment, and the siege imposed by Israel against the Gaza Strip.
Further, Al Mezan condemns the State of Israel’s encouragement of the further perpetration of these crimes by offering protection and immunity to their perpetrators.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to: · Assume its moral and legal responsibility to end the siege on the Gaza Strip in order to pave the way for reconstruction · Investigate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights perpetrated by the IOF in the Gaza Strip in preparation for perpetrators to be prosecuted and held to account Ends