Israeli Violates International
Humanitarian Law [Gaza]
by Richard Falk
United Nations Special Rapporteur
for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
January 2, 2008
United Nations Human Rights Council
The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and
massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined
in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of
an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.
Those violations include:
* Collective punishment - the entire 1.5
million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished
for the actions of a few militants.
* Targeting civilians - the airstrikes
were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches
of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area
of the Middle East.
* Disproportionate military response -
the airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security
office of Gaza's elected government, but have killed and injured
hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups
of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.
Earlier Israeli actions, specifically
the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza
Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well
as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond
to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide
medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability
of Gaza's besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently
treat the victims.
Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian
targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give
rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor
as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law
and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response.
I note that Israel's escalating military assaults have not made
Israeli civilians safer; to the contrary, the one Israeli killed
today after the upsurge of Israeli violence is the first in over
Israel has also ignored recent Hamas'
diplomatic initiatives to reestablish the truce or ceasefire since
its expiration on 26 December.
The Israeli airstrikes today, and the
catastrophic human toll that they caused, challenge those countries
that have been and remain complicit, either directly or indirectly,
in Israel's violations of international law. That complicity includes
those countries knowingly providing the military equipment including
warplanes and missiles used in these illegal attacks, as well
as those countries who have supported and participated in the
siege of Gaza that itself has caused a humanitarian catastrophe.
I remind all member states of the United
Nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation
to protect any civilian population facing massive violations of
international humanitarian law - regardless of what country may
be responsible for those violations. I call on all Member States,
as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations
system, to move on an emergency basis not only to condemn Israel's
serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing
real protection for the Palestinian people.
Richard A. Falk is an American professor
emeritus of international law at Princeton University
International War Crimes & Criminals