Sunday, September 17, 2006
Amnesty International accuses Israel of deliberate war crimes
Amnesty International's Severe Criticism Of Israel's Tactics
By Dr. César Chelala 08/25/06 "Information Clearing House"
-- -- New York - An Amnesty International report on Israeli Defence Forces’s (IDF) behavior during the recent war in Lebanon severely criticizes it and calls for an independent commission of inquiry. Such a commission should not only investigate the IDF’s but also Hizbullah’s actions during the conflict, in which civilians have been the main losers.
According to Amnesty International, during the more than four weeks of war, Lebanon’s infrastructure suffered destruction “on a catastrophic scale.” During that period, the Israeli Air Force conducted more than 7,000 air attacks while the Navy carried out 2,500 bombardments. As a result of these attacks and those of Israeli ground forces, 1,183 persons were killed. One third of them were children. In addition, over 4,000 people were injured and almost one million people were displaced.
Civilians were harmed not only as a result of direct attacks but also as a consequence of the destruction of vital infrastructure. The Lebanese government estimates that 31 “vital points” (airports, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities) have been totally or partially destroyed. Attacks were also carried out against fuel stations and commercial enterprises.
Hospitals, particularly in the south of the country, have sustained shelling damage, while their continued operation was affected by fuel shortages, road destruction and the continuing blockade. The Lebanese Ministry of Public Health stated that, as of August 12, almost 60 percent of the country’s hospitals had stopped functioning. Two government hospitals --in Bint Jbeil and in Meis al-Jebel—were completely destroyed by IDF’s attacks. In the southern village of Tebnine, just before the cease fire on August 14, Israeli forces fired cluster bombs all around the government hospital where hundreds of civilians had sought refuge, including many children, and elderly and disabled people. These attacks happened although hospitals are by nature “civilian objects” and shouldn’t be attacked unless they are used for military purposes.
Amnesty International’s delegates also observed attacks on supermarkets and warehouses, apparently intended to hasten the departure of residents, a situation also denounced by the Catholic charity Caritas. To make matters worse, agricultural production has also been severely hit, since the produce cannot be transported by road, which are almost completely destroyed.
According to Fadl Shalak, head of Lebanon’s Council for Development and Reconstruction, the damages provoked by the IDF amount to $3.5 billion: $2 billion for buildings and $1.5 billion for infrastructure such as bridges, roads and power plants. Overall, more than 120 bridges were destroyed, including the one connecting Mount Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley, far away from the south of Lebanon, the main theater of hostilities. According to evidence, the extensive destruction of roads, power systems, civilian homes and industry was a deliberate component of the IDF’s strategy rather than just “collateral damage.”
On July 13, Israel’s Defence Force Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Dan Halutz stated, “Nothing is safe [in Lebanon]. It is as simple as that.” Many of the actions described are war crimes, and those responsible are subject to criminal accountability anywhere in the world through the doctrine of universal jurisdiction. Criticism of the IDF’s actions is not limited to Amnesty International.
Gilad Atzmon, a former Israeli soldier who is now a writer and musician stated, “The IDF is a spoiled, confused and tired army that is specializing solely in terrorizing civilian populations while being engaged in constant tactical withdrawal. This Israeli Army is not trained to win wars anymore. Instead, its tank battalions are mainly engaged in daily shelling of schools and hospitals…The IDF is basically a heavy army specializing in merciless regional bullying.”
Given the scale of human rights abuses, Amnesty International has called for the establishment of a comprehensive, independent and impartial inquiry into violations of international humanitarian law by both Hizbullah and Israel in the conflict. It has asked that the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council request the UN Secretary General to establish a panel of independent experts to carry out this investigation. The creation of that commission could bring some sanity to an otherwise hopeless situation.
César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights.
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