Israel "punished and terrorised" civilians in Gaza in a disproportionate attack in its three-week war on the territory earlier this year, a United Nations report has found.
The four-member probe panel "concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly in some respect crimes against humanity were committed by the Israel Defense Forces," the head of UN probe, former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone, told reporters.
Israeli forces deliberately attacked civilians, failed to take precautions to minimize loss of civilian life and cited strong evidence Israeli forces committed "grave breaches" of the Geneva Convention, the 575-page report noted.
Israel has rejected a cooperation with the Goldstone team or had not allowed it onto its territory.
The firing of white phosphorous shells and the use of high explosive artillery shells were listed as "violations of humanitarian law."
"There were numerous instances of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects in violation of the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of distinction, resulting in deaths and serious injuries," the report noted.
There was "strong evidence that Israeli forces committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in Gaza, including wilful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, or extensive destruction of property," it added.
"The Israeli operations were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population," the report said.
The Jewish state had failed to investigate or to prosecute violations of international humanitarian law and human rights laws, the Goldstone panel said.
"We came to the conclusion on the basis of the facts we found that there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law were committed by Israel during the military operation in Gaza," he said.
The investigator said verbal attacks on his mission by Israel and pro-Israeli groups were disappointing.
Goldstone said Israel's blockade of Gaza, which began prior to the assault, amounted to "collective punishment" for the 1.5 million Gazans, most of whom rely on aid to survive.
It said a court could find that the blockade of Gaza is itself a crime against humanity.
"International Criminal Court"
The report was more sharply critical of Israel and only four paragraphs of a seven-page summary were devoted to Palestinian violations.
The report also said rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups into Israel would also constitute war crimes, and may amount to crimes against humanity."
But it said it found no evidence to back Israeli claims that Palestinian armed groups in Gaza either directed civilians to areas where attacks were being launched or that they forced civilians to remain within the vicinity of the attacks.
The panel said it also found no evidence that members of Palestinian armed groups engaged in combat in civilian dress.
The report also said the UN Security Council should require Israel "to take all appropriate steps, within a period of three months, to launch appropriate investigations that are independent and in conformity with international standards."
Israel immediately dismissed the report, saying the mandate that established the fact-finding mission was "one-sided."
More than 1,400 Palestinians - about a third of them women and children - were killed in the war. Thirteen Israelis died.
If either side failed to do that, the council should refer the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor in The Hague within six months, they added.
Goldstone's report, which came at the end of a six-month inquiry and will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council later this month.
The Goldstone commission's report can be found at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/docs/UNFFMGC_Report.pdf
Last Mod: 16 Eylül 2009, 12:07