Amnesty International calls for arms embargo against Israel and all Palestinian militant groups

In a report embargoed until 12:01 am on 23 February, Amnesty International said there should be no more business as usual, after the three-week Israeli Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza — and years of rocket, mortar and missile attacks from Gaza upon neighboring areas of Israel.

“We urge the UN Security Council to impose an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are found to ensure that munitions and other military equipment are not used to commit serious violations of international law,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Director for the Middle East, in a statement issued on Sunday but embargoed until just after midnight on Monday.

His statement added:“In addition all states should suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk of human rights violations … To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money … As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart.

Smart called for an immediate suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel.

In a press release announcing their new report, Amnesty said that “Even before the three-week conflict, those who armed the two sides will have been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by the parties. They must take some responsibility for the violations perpetrated with the weapons they have supplied and should immediately cease further transfers”.
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Israel says no need for external investigations – but senior UN official says there must be accountability

Here are two different but related items, which are juxtaposed here for full consideration —

I.) From the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a communication dated 27 January 2009:
FAQ – Answers to questions on the operation in Gaza – MFA Spokesperson responds to frequently asked questions about the IDF operation against Hamas terror in Gaza (27 Dec 2008 – 18 Jan 2009):

“1. Q: Will Israel cooperate with investigations of war crimes?

A: Israel takes every report of war crimes seriously, provided it comes from a credible source. However, no official body or organization has presented any evidence of war crimes allegedly committed by Israel. All accusations have been based on rumor, half-truths, anonymous reports from unconfirmed sources, and manipulations of the truth. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) routinely and thoroughly scrutinizes its operational activities and when necessary, is subject to oversight by judicial and governmental authorities. Therefore, there is no need of outside intervention. It is important to emphasize that no credible evidence or proof of war crimes allegedly committed by Israel has been presented”…
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"What was going through my mind was one thought alone: Let it not be phosphorus"

Bradley Burston wrote in Haaretz today that “The war had gone on only a few days when Israel Channel 10 television began interspersing coverage of Palestinian rockets exploding in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon and commercials for the Israeli version of the veteran reality show Survivor, in which one of the contestants is shown saying of the rival tribe ‘We’re gonna kick their butts!’ Later that evening, the station’s news department broadcast an unending, eerily quiet, queasily stationary live shot of Israeli shells exploding in slow, domelike cascades of smoke and fire an indeterminate distance behind and beside a residential area of Gaza. I could have watched this as a journalist, or a foreigner, or a member of the peace camp. Or I could have watched it as what they call great television. If I’d lived far enough away, it was fully bizarre enough to have qualified as a live reality series on its own … But I watched it as a soldier from a past war. A medic. A medic’s imagination is stalked by two things – What you’ve seen already, and what you hope you never will.

“What was going through my mind was one thought alone: Let it not be phosphorus.

Here are some photos taken of the 17 January IDF attack — with White Phosphorous — on an UNRWA school in Beit Lahiya. This happened the day that Israel announced a ceasefire — just hours before the it was announced, and hours before it went into effect. There were dozens if not hundreds of people in the school at the time, who had sought shelter from the military offensive. The photos are available on the UNRWA website here:

UNRWA school in Beit Lahiya attacked on 17 Jan 09

UNRWA school in Beit Lahiya attacked by White Phosphorous - 17 Jan 09

“They taught us to dread zarchan [from the Hebrew root to shine or glow]. They taught us, as medics, that if we treated a phosphorous wound, prepare for the worst. It doesn’t merely burn, they taught us, it burns first through the skin, then through the soft tissue, until it reaches bone. They taught us to take an instrument, or, in its absence, a stick, to dig out the phosphorus crystals from the flesh, or the burning would go on and on” …
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Israeli government condemns "attempts to cast aspersions" on IDF – promises "operational investigations"

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has announced that “a Jordanian military field hospital has been coordinated between Israel and the Jordanian authorities and is scheduled to arrive tomorrow at the Gaza Strip. Some 33 trucks, with approximately 210 medical staff and equipment, will access the region at Allenby Bridge and make their way to the Gaza Strip via Erez Crossing”.

At its weekly cabinet meeting, the Israeli government adopted a statement saying that “As a moral army without peer, the IDF took care to act in accordance with international law and did its utmost to prevent harming civilians who were not involved in the fighting, including their property, and to this end, inter alia, distributed very many flyers and also used the local media and the local telephone network in order to deliver timely general and detailed warnings to the civilian population. The IDF also acted to provide for the humanitarian needs of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip during the fighting …”

The Israeli cabinet statement added that:
As in any operation, the IDF will undertake operational investigations, and draw lessons and the necessary conclusions therefrom. The Government expresses its full confidence in this serious process and ascribes national importance to them. The Government condemns and rejects the attempts to cast aspersions on the character of the IDF, its soldiers and commanders, and expresses its confidence in its norms and values” …

On January 10, Human Rights Watch posted a statement on their website saying it believed the IDF is using White Phosphorous in Gaza. See post here.
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