Israel is on the mat barely three months after the eleven-day assault on Gaza in May. The dispensation in Tel Aviv has its back to the wall with Wednesday’s accusation by Human Rights Watch, accusing Israel of what it calls “apparent war crimes” in Gaza during the assault that began on May 10.
The conclusion is apparently embedded in convincing evidence; the electorally fragile Israeli government hasn’t even advanced a feeble defence in the chronically volatile swathe of the Middle East.
The international human rights organisation advanced its conclusions after investigating three Israeli air raids that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians.
It concluded that “there were no evident military targets in the vicinity” of the attacks.
The report also accused Palestinian armed groups of apparent war crimes by launching more than 4,000 unguided rockets and mortars at Israeli population centres. Such attacks, it underlined, violate “the prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians”.
Thus, both sides have been accused of war crimes, in greater or lesser degree. Of course, the report was riveted to Israeli actions during the fighting, and HRW said it would issue a separate report in August on the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.
The evidence against Israel is suitably damning As much is clear from the statement advanced by Garry Simpson, HRW’s conflict director, so designated ~ “Israeli forces carried out attacks in Gaza in May that devastated entire families without any apparent military target nearby. Israel’s consistent unwillingness to seriously investigate alleged war crimes, coupled with Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli civilian areas, underscored the importance of an ongoing investigation into both sides by the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
There was no immediate reaction to the report by the Israeli military, which has repeatedly said its attacks were aimed at military targets in Gaza.
The conflict in May was the fourth between Israel and Hamas since the latter began governing Gaza in 2007. Human Rights Watch, other rights groups and UN officials have accused both sides of committing war crimes in all of the conflicts.
Early this year, HRW accused Israel of being guilty of international crimes of apartheid and persecution because of discriminatory policies towards Palestinians, both inside Israel as well as in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel rejected the accusations.
In Tuesday’s report, HRW called on the US to render security assistance to Israel conditional on its taking “concrete and verifiable actions” to comply with international human rights law and to investigate past abuses.
It also called on the ICC to include the recent Gaza assault in its ongoing investigation into possible war crimes by Israel and Palestinian armed groups. Israel does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction. The plot thickens in the Middle East.