Would Israeli election results have been different?

There were many calls today for an independent inquiry into the “permissive rules of engagement” that may have led to what may be crimes against humanity during the recent IDF 22-day Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The stories make you wonder — would the outcome of the Israeli elections had been different, had these stories been made known earlier.
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"Permissive rules of engagement"

This is what Israeli soldiers have said about their marching orders while in the air above, or on the terrain in Gaza, during Operation Cast Lead, 27 December to 18 January. The ground operation began on 3 January.

Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz today that soldiers who fought during the offensive said that “Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property … The speakers included combat pilots and infantry soldiers. Their testimony runs counter to the Israel Defense Forces’ claims that Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation”.

The just-revealed account of what Israeli soldiers said about their “permissive rules of engagement ” in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead — put into context this outrageous statement, below, from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is still posted on the MFA’s website: “To Israel’s great sorrow, innocent civilians in Gaza have been harmed. However, the figures of civilian casualties have been greatly exaggerated. Most of these figures come from Hamas sources, amplifying the number of civilians killed by including as ‘children’ teenage Hamas fighters and as ‘women’, female terrorists. According to an Israeli investigation, of the 1,100-1,200 reported casualties, 250 were civilians. The rest are believed to be terrorists or have yet to be identified, but given that most of them are young men in their 20s, it is not unreasonable to assume that they are also members of Hamas or other terrorist organizations“. This disgraceful piece of propaganda can be read in full here.

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Story of the day: Israel detains ten Hamas leaders across West Bank

Is this a manifestation of Israel’s “new” get-tough policy, in retaliation for the failure of negotiations under Egyptian sponsorship to obtain the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit?

Is it also a “good cop/bad cop” scenario — related to the parallel Egyptian-sponsored negotiations between Palestinian “factions”, including principally Hamas and Fatah, in which Hamas is pressing for the release of detained prisoners being held by Palestinian Authority security services in the West Bank?

Fatah leaders insist that they do not hold any “political prisoners”, only security detainees, and criminals.  Never mind.  In any case, Fatah will release a few, while Israel will go pick up a few more — perhaps even higher-level, and of more political weight?

At least some of these new detainees are among the Palestinians who met former U.S. President Jimmy Carter when he visited the region last year…

Continue reading Story of the day: Israel detains ten Hamas leaders across West Bank

Israel's "new" strategy?

Haaretz has written today about Israel’s “new” strategy — to pressure Hamas into freeing seized IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit, who has been held (presumably somewhere in the Gaza Strip) since late June 2006.
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ICRC: "it is intolerable for people not to have access to water during a conflict"

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is calling on governments taking part in the Fifth World Water Forum in Turkey this week to make a serious commitment to protect water and sanitation systems in times of war and to maintain services in conflict-prone areas to prevent them from collapsing.
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Another set of "generous proposals" — another set-up?

Another Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, is saying that Palestinians have inexplicably hardened their stances and rejected another set of “generous proposals”.

Ehud Olmert and company did that after the failed Camp David negotiations in late July 2000. Years later, and the verdict is still not in.

Olmert sent out the same message last night, and is now going to convene the Israeli Cabinet at 2 pm today to offically throw the gauntlet down, yet again.

Egyptian officials have a few more frantic hours to try to work on all parties.
Continue reading Another set of "generous proposals" — another set-up?

Olmert's office says Hamas has hardened its position in recent days

The office of Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has released an update this evening, suggesting that there has been no progress in talks in Egypt with Hamas on his last-minute push to get IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit released. A Cabinet meeting scheduled for today was earlier postponed until tomorrow.

Much press speculation in Israel was that a favorable deal was imminent.

But — perhaps in an effort to put last-minute pressure on Hamas — the Prime Minister’s office’s statement said, discouragingly, that “it became clear during the discussions that Hamas had hardened its position, reneged on understandings that had been formulated over the past year and raised extreme demands despite the generous proposals that had been raised in this round in order to advance and exhaust the negotiations and bring about the soldier’s release”.
Continue reading Olmert's office says Hamas has hardened its position in recent days

Professor Richard Falk sceptical about war crimes proceedings on Gaza operation

Richard Falk, an American professor of international law who is now the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the occupied Palestinian territory — and who was deported when he tried to come to Israel a few month’s ago — has written in the current edition of the monthly Le Monde Diplomatique that he is sceptical about eventual war crimes prosecutions over the recent Israeli military operation in Gaza.

He wrote that he believes there is a basis for such prosecutions, but that chances are slim that trials or judicial proceedings would happen, in the real world. But, he wrote, “the surfacing of criminal charges against Israel during and after its attacks on Gaza resulted in major gains on the legitimacy front for the Palestinians”.

Falk is due to present a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 March on the IDF’s three-week war on Gaza, which Israel called “Operation Cast Lead” in reference to a Hanukkah toy.
Continue reading Professor Richard Falk sceptical about war crimes proceedings on Gaza operation

A group of leading investigators and judges call for full international investigation into Gaza war

Sixteen international investigators and judges have written a open letter to the UNSG BAN Ki-Moon, and to the UN Security Council, calling for a full international investigation into alleged abuses of international law during the recent Gaza conflict — not just one limited to attacks on UN installations.

The call is supported by Amnesty International, and comes at a time when a UN Board of Inquiry is expected to report to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, on its initial findings regarding attacks on UN facilities and personnel in the region.

The letter calls for the establishment of a United Nations commission of inquiry into the Gaza conflict that: (1) Has a mandate to carry out a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation of all allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict; (2) Acts in accordance with the strictest international standards governing such investigations; and (3) Can provide recommendations as to the appropriate prosecution of those responsible for gross violations of the law by the relevant authorities.

The letter stresses the need for an investigation into “all serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict”.

It — and the just-revealed report of what Israeli soldiers said about their “permissive rules of engagement ” in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead — put into context this outrageous statement, below, from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite our criticism and complaints, it is still posted on the MFA’s website: “To Israel’s great sorrow, innocent civilians in Gaza have been harmed. However, the figures of civilian casualties have been greatly exaggerated. Most of these figures come from Hamas sources, amplifying the number of civilians killed by including as ‘children’ teenage Hamas fighters and as ‘women’, female terrorists. According to an Israeli investigation, of the 1,100-1,200 reported casualties, 250 were civilians. The rest are believed to be terrorists or have yet to be identified, but given that most of them are young men in their 20s, it is not unreasonable to assume that they are also members of Hamas or other terrorist organizations“. This disgraceful piece of propaganda can be read in full here.
Continue reading A group of leading investigators and judges call for full international investigation into Gaza war

Israel imposes further restrictions on Gaza fishing – ordering it kept close to shore

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Sunday that “The Israeli authorities further restricted the access of Gaza’s fishermen to three nautical miles from the shore.

This is a reduction from the six nautical miles imposed between the time the blockade was imposed on Gaza in June 2007 and the start of “Cast Lead” on 27 December.

It is a significant reduction from the 12 nautical miles Israel committed to under the Bertini Commitments in 2002. [n.b. OCHA’s website indicates that it is apparently not even bothering to issue any further reports on compliance with the Bertini Commitments.]

This reduction raises concerns over the upcoming fishing season, which reaches its annual peak in mid-April.

OCHA reported that “In three separate incidents (4, 6 and 10 March), Israeli patrol boats fired towards Palestinian fishing boats, forcing the boats to return to shore”.

This report can be read in full here.

There is an agreed map that is part of the Oslo Accords that allocates an area of 20 square nautical miles out to see from the Gaza coastline as a zone of Palestinian fishing (and later, economic activities) — it was signed by the then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and witnessed by then-U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and then-Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev.