Israeli forces committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity during their three-week war on the Gaza Strip, UN fact-finding rights mission concluded on Tuesday, September 15, hinting to a possible referral of the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
"The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly in some respects crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force," Richard Goldstone, the panel head, told reporters.
The 600-page report accused Israel of violating international humanitarian law during its onslaught on Gaza eight months ago, citing the firing of white phosphorous shells and the use of high explosive artillery shells.
"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."
It cited "strong evidence that Israeli forces committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in Gaza, including willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, or extensive destruction of property.”
The report said Israeli forces used disproportionate force and failed to take precautions to minimize loss of civilian life.
"The Israeli operations were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population."
Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the fighting between December 28, 2008 and January 18.
While Israel claims 300 civilians were killed, a Gaza observer group has said over 900 of the dead were innocent civilians.
Thirteen Israelis, 10 soldiers and three civilians, were killed in Hamas attacks.
Goldstone recommended to the UN Security Council asking Israel to probe possible crimes committed by its forces.
He insisted the investigations should be "independent and in conformity with international standards."
The UN investigator also urged the formation of a committee of human rights experts to monitor any such proceedings.
Israel has refused to cooperate with the UN fact-finding mission or allow it onto its territory.
It has rejected international criticism of the war, saying it has so far found no cause to prosecute any of its soldiers.
The Israeli Haaretz daily has published testimonies by Israeli soldiers in which they admitted killing innocent Palestinians in cold blood and ransacking their properties during the Gaza war.
The UN fact-finding mission stressed that if Israel fails to investigate crimes by its soldiers, then the UN Security Council should refer the situation to the ICC in The Hague.
The Hague-based court investigates war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on the territory of, or by a national of a state.
A coalition of 350 European and Arab civil society organizations has filed a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel over war crimes in Gaza.
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)