'State protection' for Israeli soldiers over Gaza war crimes

Olmert promised military personnel "state protection" from foreign prosecution over "war crimes" despite int'l calls to probe Israel over alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

'State protection' for Israeli soldiers over Gaza war crimes

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday promised military personnel "state protection" from foreign prosecution over "war crimes" despite international calls to investigate Israel over alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

"The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza should know they are safe from various tribunals and Israel will assist them on this front and defend them," Olmert said.

Last week, the military censor ordered local and foreign media in Israel to blur the faces of army commanders in photos and video footage of the Gaza war on the ground that "they could be identified and arrested while travelling abroad."

Israeli media reports said the military had been advising its top brass "to think twice about visiting Europe".

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert said Israel's justice minister would consult with the country's top legal experts and find "answers to possible questions relating to the Israeli military's activities" during the 22-day war.

The civilian deaths sparked public outcry abroad and prompted senior U.N. officials to demand independent investigations into whether Israel committed war crimes.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians, hit by rocket salvoes, were killed in the conflict.

White phosphorus

Rights group Amnesty International has said that Israel's use of white phosphorus munitions -- which can cause extreme burns -- in built-up areas of the Gaza Strip was indiscriminate and therefore constituted a war crime.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has no jurisdiction to investigate in the Gaza Strip, as it is not a state.

And while Israel has not signed the Rome Statute that enshrined the ICC, it can still be investigated, but that would require a U.N. Security Council mandate. Any such proposal would probably be vetoed by the United States.

Some European nations allow for war crimes lawsuits to be filed privately against members of Israelis.

In 2005, reserve Major-General Doron Almog, the former head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, had to remain in an El Al aircraft that landed in London after a tip-off British police were about to arrest him on war crimes charges.

A British Muslim group had won an arrest warrant saying he breached the Fourth Geneva Convention in the demolition of Palestinian homes in 2002 in the southern Gaza Strip.

Almog stayed on the plane and flew back to Israel.

Calls for probe

Meanwhile, Hamas said that it is forming a commission to document psosible war crimes committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during Gaza visit, he expected Israel to provide urgently a full explanation of attacks on U.N. facilities in Gaza and said those responsible must be held accountable.

The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council had last week said it would send a fact-finding mission to investigate Israeli assault in Gaza.

MAZLUMDER, Turkish human rights group, also went to Gaza to probe violations during Israeli bombings and assault.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, voted by a large majority on January 12 to set up a probe into grave human rights violations by Israeli forces against Palestinians.

Israel killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, a third of them children in the 22-day military aggression on Gaza and wounded 5,300 Palestinians, and Gaza infrastructure suffered massive damage totaling some 476 million dollars, according to Palestinian medics and officials.

The United Nations agency responsible for looking after Palestinian refugees has released photographs of what appears to be white phosphorus raining down on a UN school in Beit Lahiya on January 17.

The pictures show terrified Palestinians fleeing from burning lumps of the material, which can burn through skin to the bone. Paramedics sprint away from the incandescent core of the explosion as it engulfs a Red Crescent ambulance, before they return with stretchers to evacuate the victims.

Amnesty International, which has investigators in Gaza, said that it had found indisputable evidence that white phosphorus was used by Israeli forces in densely populated areas.

Eight Israeli human rights groups have also called on the Israeli government to investigate given the scale of the casualties, describing the number of dead women and children as terrifying.

Last Mod: 25 Ocak 2009, 15:33
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