Criticism of Israel ramped up Monday as reports accused the state of violating international laws and committing war crimes in Gaza following the Israeli military’s second scandal in two days after it was revealed that soldiers had ordered T-shirts with "shocking" images of dead babies, weeping mothers and bombed mosques to commemorate the end of their training.
Meanwhile, a human rights group charged the army with attacking medics and blocking treatment for the wounded a day after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights said there was reason to believe Israel’s operations in Gaza amounted to a war crime.
T-shirts like one with the image of a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bulls-eye on her belly and the slogan "1 shot, 2 kills," made light of killing Palestinians, the Israeli paper Haaretz reported. Several t-shirts were printed including one with a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises topped by the slogan "Bet you got raped!"
The t-shirts carry a similar message of dehumanizing the death of Palestinians with another of the T-shirts bearing the slogan "Better use Durex" next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby with his mother weeping beside him.
"These are shirts for around the house, for jogging, in the army. Not for going out," Haaretz quoted an unnamed soldier as saying.
The t-shirts are usually submitted to unit commanders for approval but they are not always able to control what is printed, Haaretz reported, adding that previously banned slogans and drawings include: "We won’t chill ’til we confirm the kill" or "Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!"
The Israeli Defense Force called the shirts "unacceptable" and said in a statement they were "not in accordance with IDF values and are simply tasteless."
"This type of humor is unacceptable. Commanders are instructed to use disciplinary tools against those who produce T-shirts of this type," said the statement.
The t-shirt scandal again raised question about the moral conduct of Israeli soldiers just days after soldiers who participated in the 22-day war described in a journal article how they unjustly killed Palestinian civilians under relaxed rules of engagement and accused top Israeli officials of deep contempt for Palestinians.
U.N. rapporteur Richard Falk said Monday that in order to determine if the war was legal it had to be determined whether Israeli forces were able to differentiate between civilian and military targets in Gaza.
"If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Falk wrote in the report to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
"On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion," he added, pointing out that attacks were targeted at densely populated areas.
A separate report by an Israeli non-governmental organization also released Monday criticized Israel and called for an independent investigation into the military’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead.
The Physicians for Human Rights report listed several offences like "attacks on medical personnel; damage to medical facilities and indiscriminate attacks on civilians not involved in the fighting."
"We have noticed a stark decline in IDF morals concerning the Palestinian population of Gaza, which in reality amounts to a contempt for Palestinian lives," the chairman of the group, Dani Filc, said.
Bleeding to Death
"Israel placed numerous obstacles in the course of the operation that impeded emergency medical evacuation of the sick and wounded and also caused families to be trapped for days without food, water and medications," the report said.
"The actions…violate directives of international law which forbid attacks on medical centers and medical teams during fighting" and "blatantly violated codes of ethics."
Among the specific incidents cited is that of a Mr. Shurrab whose two sons were shot by Israeli forces as they drove toward the southern city of Khan Yunis on Jan. 16.
"One of the sons died immediately, the other bled to death for 12 hours," the report said. "All that time the Israeli soldiers were within a short distance from the Shurrabs but did not provide any assistance despite the father’s repeated requests."
Such incidents reflect a general demonization of Palestinians, a process that "reached its nadir when soldiers in an army that flaunts its morality declined to help evacuate injured civilians and trapped families, when soldiers acted in a trigger-happy manner as they opened fire on ambulances, medical installations and medical personnel."