By Hadi Yahmid – Paris
A coalition of 350 European and Arab civil society organizations has filed a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against war crimes committed by the Israeli army during its latest onslaught on the Gaza Strip.
"The lawsuit is backed by all Palestinian political parties," Haitham Manaa, a coordinator for the International Coalition for Trying Israeli War Criminals, told IslamOnline.net.
He said the lawsuit, submitted to ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo Friday, accuses Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during its 22-day military offensive against Gaza, a coastal enclave home to 1.6 million.
Established in 2002, the ICC prosecutes individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Israeli troops killed more than 1,350 Palestinians, half of them women and children, and injured 5,450 in air, sea and land attacks against the densely-populated strip.
The massive bombardment has also wrecked havoc on Gaza’s infrastructure, leaving thousands of homes, government buildings, schools, hospitals and even mosque in ruins.
Foreign and Arab doctors documented abnormal injuries suffered by the civilian population of Gaza, accusing Israel of using banned weapons.
Under international pressures, Israel admitted Saturday using white phosphorous, a chemical that burns away human flesh to the bone, in shelling Gaza.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Israel of unlawful and discriminate attacks against Gaza civilians.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for holding Israelis responsible for attacks on UN buildings in Gaza.
Manaa said the international coalition will ask the UN General Assembly to establish a war crimes tribunal to try Israeli officials.
"A lawsuit will also be filed in Switzerland regarding Israel’s violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention."
In 2005, reserve Major-General Doron Almog, the former head of Israeli forces in Gaza, was warned not to leave an El Al aircraft that landed in London after a tip-off that British police were about to arrest him on war crimes charges.
A British Muslim group had won an arrest warrant against him for breaching the Fourth Geneva Convention in the demolition of Gaza homes in 2002.
Fearing similar legal action, Israel’s military censor has banned the publication of the identity of the unit leaders who took part in the deadly blitz in Gaza.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also vowed on Sunday legal protection for Israeli troops against war crimes charges.
"The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza need to know that they are completely safe from different tribunals and Israel will help and protect them."
Manaa said that the international coalition would also file lawsuits in European countries, whose legislation allow trial of war criminals.
"Lawsuits will also be filed against Israel in countries, whose property in Gaza have been destroyed such as Norway."
The coalition also plans a lawsuit in Belgian courts demanding the abolition of a European agreement to upgrade relations with Israel.
"The coalition is also mulling lawsuits against weapons firms providing Israel with arms."