Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Israeli Rights Groups Call for War Crimes Inquiry - NYTimes.com

Israeli Rights Groups Call for War Crimes Inquiry - NYTimes.com:
“This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes,”

"JERUSALEM — Nine Israeli human rights groups called on Wednesday for an investigation into whether Israeli officials had committed war crimes in Gaza since tens of thousands of civilians there have nowhere to flee, the health system has collapsed, many are without electricity and running water, and some are beyond the reach of rescue teams.

“This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes,” the groups said in their first news conference on the 19-day-old war.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, who spent Tuesday in Gaza City, agreed that the situation with civilians was dire but said the principal hospital was making do with medical supplies, and doctors, working around the clock, were mostly coping with the flow of injured.

“In general they did not complain about the lack of equipment or material,” he said at separate a news conference in Jerusalem.…

The Israeli human rights groups that called for an investigation said that while they believed it was legitimate for Israel to bomb military installations, it was a violation of international law for it to hit civilian sites like government buildings that contained no weapons or missiles.

Last week, the Red Cross issued an unusually harsh condemnation of Israel for failing to allow its personnel into Gaza to rescue people trapped in battle.

The group included the Israel section of Amnesty International, B’Tselem, Gisha and Physicians for Human Rights — Israel.

Mr. Kellenberger of the Red Cross said Israel had facilitated his trip to Gaza and added that he had seen no evidence of the use of white phosphorous, an obscurant used in military conflicts that can be dangerous for civilians under certain circumstances and that Palestinians say Israel is firing.

Last week, the Red Cross issued an unusually harsh condemnation of Israel for failing to allow its personnel into Gaza to rescue people trapped in battle. On Wednesday, Mr. Kellenberger said that although the situation remains critical, rescue missions had not been entirely shut down. The organization rescued 100 people trapped in Jabalya, north of Gaza City, on Tuesday.

The Red Cross representative in Israel, Pierre Wettach, added that he now believed Israel was trying hard to facilitate his group’s access to the wounded.

“At this stage, they want as far as possible that these things work,” he said, referring to rescue missions.

The military operations continued apace in southern Gaza with the Israeli military reporting that its warplanes carried out three dozen bombing raids, striking rocket launchers and smuggler tunnels. Still, with the cease-fire talks gaining ground and Israeli leaders concerned about sending their troops into the heart of Gaza City, Israel held off on expanding its war to the next phase.…"

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/15/world/middleeast/15mideast.html?hp

con·cept: Israeli Rights Groups Call for War Crimes Inquiry - NYTimes.com