Sunday, January 18, 2009

Israel accused of war crimes over 12-hour assault on Gaza village

White flags ignored and houses bulldozed with families inside, claim residents

Israel stands accused of perpetrating a series of war crimes during a sustained 12-hour assault on a village in southern Gaza last week in which 14 people died.

In testimony collected from residents of the village of Khuza’a by the Observer, it is claimed that Israeli soldiers entering the village:

• attempted to bulldoze houses with civilians inside;

• killed civilians trying to escape under the protection of white flags;

• opened fire on an ambulance attempting to reach the wounded;

• used indiscriminate force in a civilian area and fired white phosphorus shells.

If the allegations are upheld, all the incidents would constitute breaches of the Geneva conventions.

The denunciations over what happened in Khuza’a follow repeated claims of possible human rights violations from the Red Cross, the UN and human rights organisations.

The Israeli army announced yesterday that it was investigating “at the highest level” five other attacks against civilians in Gaza, involving two UN facilities and a hospital. It added that in all cases initial investigations suggested soldiers were responding to fire. “These claims of war crimes are not supported by the slightest piece of evidence,” said Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman.

Concern over what occurred in the village of Khuza’a in the early hours of Tuesday was first raised by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Although an Israeli military spokesman said he had “no information that this alleged incident took place”, witness statements collected by the Observer are consistent and match testimony gathered by B’Tselem.

There is also strong visible evidence that Khuza’a came under a sustained attack from tanks and bulldozers that smashed some buildings to pieces.

Pictures taken by photographer Bruno Stevens in the aftermath show heavy damage - and still burning phosphorus. “What I can tell you is that many, many houses were shelled and that they used white phosphorus,” said Stevens yesterday, one of the first western journalists to get into Gaza. “It appears to have been indiscriminate.” Stevens added that homes near the village that had not been hit by shell fire had been set on fire.

The village of Khuza’a is around 500 metres from the border with Israel. According to B’Tselem, its field researcher in Gaza was contacted last Tuesday by resident Munir Shafik al-Najar, who said that Israeli bulldozers had begun destroying homes at 2.30am.

When Rawhiya al-Najar, aged 50, stepped out of her house waving a white flag, so that the rest of the family could leave the house, she was allegedly shot by Israeli soldiers nearby.

The second alleged incident was on Tuesday afternoon, when Israeli troops ordered 30 residents to leave their homes and walk to a school in the village centre. After travelling 20 metres, troops fired on the group, allegedly killing three.

Further detailed accounts of what occurred were supplied in interviews given to a Palestinian researcher who has been working for the Observer, following the decision by Israel to ban foreign media from the Gaza Strip. Iman al-Najar, 29, said she watched as bulldozers started to destroy neighbours’ homes and saw terrified villagers flee from their houses as masonry collapsed.

“By 6am the tanks and bulldozers had reached our house,” Iman recalled. “We went on the roofs and tried to show we were civilians with white flags. Everyone was carrying a white flag. We told them we are civilians. We don’t have any weapons. The soldiers started to destroy the houses even if the people were in them.” Describing the death of Rawhiya, Iman says they were ordered by Israeli soldiers to move to the centre of the town. As they did, Israeli troops opened fire. Rawhiya was at the front of the group, says Iman.

Marwan Abu Raeda, 40, a paramedic working for the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, said: “At 8am we received a phone call from Khuza’a. They told us about the injured woman. I went immediately. I was 60 or 70 metres away from the injured woman when the Israeli forces started to shoot at me.” As he drove into another street, he came under fire again. Twelve hours later, when Rawhiya was finally reached, she was dead.

Iman said she ended up in an area of rubble where a large group of people had sought cover in a deep hole among the debris of demolished houses. It is then, she says, that bulldozers began to push the rubble from each side. “They wanted to bury us alive,” she said.

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Joe said...

Dr Nasir Khan, where have you been the past 8 years?
If you oppose war and violence, why are you silent about Palestinian war crimes?
Sorry, Dr Nasir Khan, but you are a fraud. You are just another Islamic racist hiding behind a false veil of pretending that you support human rights.

"The attacks against civilians by Palestinian armed groups are widespread, systematic and in pursuit of an explicit policy to attack civilians. They therefore constitute crimes against humanity under international law. They may also constitute war crimes"

And Hamas? I'm not sure that you read Arabic, but you obviously read English:
Article Thirteen of the Hamas Charter:
"[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement.
There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad."

Dr Nasir Khan said...

Dr Nasir Khan said...
I quite understand what you say and what you stand for. But what you say is simply turning the truth on its head and what you stand for is nothing other than Zionist world-view, where any concern for truth and facts is drowned in the loud beat of propaganda drums and the bangs of rockets and shells, as we have witnessed over the last few weeks in besieged Gaza.

I have never supported any attack on any people or any community no matter what the circumstances, and that hold true for the actions of the Palestinian resistance movement against the occupying power Israel that has continued its murderous expansionist policy in the occupied territories. I am a believer in non-violence to tackle political and social problems, and I oppose the use of military power to crush the weak and subjugated people.

Besides, I have followed the course of events in Arab-Israeli conflict for the last fifty years and not only the last eight years. I know how Palestinian people were expropriated, expelled from their land and ever since 1948 have been hunted down by the Israeli governments even in those refugee camps where they had found shelter. What we have seen in the last few weeks in Gaza is only the continuation of the same policy that had started long ago. Have you ever thought that the total destruction of the infrastructure of Gaza and the massacres in Gaza by the mightiest army in the Middle East were meant to crush completely any resistance to the Israeli policies and thus frighten those who refuse to accept a dehumanized existence in the ‘concentration camp’ called Gaza that Israel has created? The name of the occupier of the Palestinian territories and the destroyer of Palestinians has a name: it is Israel.

You may call me by any name you choose. Like everything else what you say about me is also wrong! But how do you manage to get almost everything wrong? Is it some sort of Zionist magic?

I am not an Islamist or a Zionist racist or a ‘born again' anti-Muslim Christian Crusader. I am a humanist, and I have respect for all religions and for people of different ethnic identities. In intelligent discourse and argumentation, there is something called justice and concern for truth; such notions obviously have no place in the political vocabulary of Zionist propagandists and their

Dr Nasir Khan said...

The last sentence should read:

In intelligent discourse and argumentation, there is something called justice and concern for truth; such notions obviously have no place in the political vocabulary of Zionist propagandists and their novices.

Joe said...

Great, then if you are a humanist you should try and get the Palestinians to adopt humanism. It is a foreign concept to most of them, especially the ruling Fatah and Hamas.
Most "Zionists" are indeed humanists, and that's why you can read the foreign news reports that there were no deliberate "massacres" in Gaza.
First, the foreign non-Jewish independent press revelation that Hamas inflated the deathtoll and helped kill their own people:
Here is the original ugly story:

Then revelation in the UK press that the destruction is exaggerated:

And finally, a British combat officer tells the BBC that there were no war crimes:

Both you and I should get off the propaganda bandwagon and work towards reconciliation and dialogue. More rhetoric only keeps the conflict alive.

I certainly challenge my leaders to do a better job, to engage Hamas in dialogue despite Hamas' stated aims of wiping us off the map and killing us all.

I encourage you to do the same to Hamas - actively push them to become humanist and adopt the path of peace instead of jihad - which will only bring more death and destruction to us all.

Dr Nasir Khan said...

I am aware of the few sources you mention that show Israel committed no war crimes in Gaza. If that’s so, then we should also rejoice that Israel did not attack Gaza by air or by ground forces. It may have been merely an illusion. Perhaps the Palestinians themselves destroyed all the infrastructure of Gaza, official buildings, electricity-producing plants, and water-supply system; they may have also destroyed more than 20000 houses, schools, hospitals and food stores. And all this they must have done to make the place look just like the Warsaw Ghetto!

Not only that, they must have also killed their own children, men and women to show the world how inhuman barbarians they were!! Strangely enough, the occupying power, the Zionists did not come to help them out from such a self-inflicted savagery.

Those who entertain such thoughts are living in a fantasy world, and one can have only pity on them. But if they open their eyes and see then there is enough evidence that tells the truth about the Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza on a scale that horrifies us all.

You say most Zionists are humanists, and that I should bring the Palestinians to the side of humanism. It seems you are using the word ‘humanist’ in some general way. In fact the philosophical meanings of ‘humanism’ are something quite different from what you seem to think they are. Humanism represents a view of man in the universe and his central role in it that goes against the traditional religious consciousness and the Supernatural Being many religious people believe in. You should be able to read and think about these matters critically. Being a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian or a Hindu, etc. should not be used as a justification or excuse not to think critically. No doubt, this can be a difficult exercise but many have ventured to think this way and their numbers are increasing. However, I have little time to enter into any discussion with you or anyone else in my blogs on such matters.

I certainly approve of your suggestion to have a dialogue with Hamas and that is what I also advocate. But first you may find it more profitable to reject the Zionists’ outlook and their misleading propaganda. The choice is yours.

Joe said...

I will reject the "zionist propaganda" if you reject the Islamist propaganda.
And, I fully expect you to condemn Palestinian war crimes that pre-dated the Gaza war.

If you are a believer in non-violence, then I need to hear you call on the Palestinians to stop shooting at Israeli civilians and to prosecute those who do. The world needs to hear that you condemn violence against all citizens, be they Muslim or Jewish. So far, I haven't seen a clear, explicit, unequivocal voice from you.

To not condemn the Palestinian actions against Israeli civilians would be disingenuous, to use a diplomatic term.