Monday, April 27, 2009

Israel's Gaza report 'lacks credibility': Amnesty International

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009

The Israeli army's investigation into its recent war in Gaza "lacks credibility" and is no substitute for an independent probe, London-based rights organisation Amnesty International said Thursday.

The Israeli army on Wednesday defended its conduct during the 22-day offensive against Hamas, saying five investigations carried out by the military found the army "operated in accordance with international law."

But Amnesty said the army briefing "lacks crucial details" and failed to explain the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths during the war, including incidents involving shooting at medical facilities.

"In the absence of the necessary evidence to substantiate its allegations, the army's claims appear to be more an attempt to shirk its responsibilities than a genuine process to establish the truth," it said in a briefing note.

"Such an approach lacks credibility."

Amnesty urged Israel to cooperate with a UN commission headed by former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone to probe allegations of crimes during the offensive.

It said: "The Israeli army's probe is no substitute for a thorough, independent and impartial investigation."

A major charge against the Israeli military concerned its use of white phosphorous shells, which are allowed under international law for use on open battlefields to create a smokescreen for troops, but prohibited in densely populated areas.

The army said it had acted in accordance with international humanitarian law, but Amnesty said its assurances "could not be further from the truth."

"Amnesty International researchers on the ground found hundreds of white phosphorus-impregnated felt wedges in residential areas all over Gaza, still smouldering weeks after they had been fired," it said.

It added: "The Israeli army must provide specific, detailed information about why targets were chosen and the means and methods of attack used in order to assess their conclusion that the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) complied fully with international humanitarian law."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gaza needs more aid

By Mel Frykberg,
The Electronic Intifada,
12 April 2009

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - John Ging, head of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, has urged Israel to ease aid flow restrictions that are having a devastating effect on the 1.5 million inhabitants.

Ging says the amount of aid being allowed into Gaza at present is "wholly and totally inadequate. It's having a very devastating impact on the physical circumstances and also the mindset of people on the ground," Ging told IPS.

According to a report released last month by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), on average 127 aid trucks a day are entering Gaza.

OCHA stated that this was insufficient and way below the 475 that entered daily one month prior to Hamas's takeover of Gaza in June 2007.

"We need access," Ging said. "It's the number one issue. It's the number two issue. It's the number three issue, and so on. Until we get it, there's nothing as important as solving the access issue."

"Eighty percent of the goods that are allowed in comprise food," Mike Bailey, an Oxfam spokesman told IPS. "The rest is medical and other relief supplies. However, agricultural products such as seedlings, water pipes and fertilizer essential for reviving the agricultural sector have either been denied or delayed."

"The education sector has also been crippled. Computers, books, stationery and other educational accessories are also being denied entry," said Bailey.

"Additionally, concrete, cement, steel and glass are barred, thus preventing the tens of thousands of homes that were destroyed and damaged during the Gaza war from being rebuilt and repaired," he added.

Antoine Grand, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sub-delegation to Gaza, says that the ICRC is still negotiating with the Israelis to allow waste water and water plant spare parts and repair equipment into Gaza.

"We have been waiting for several months but so far we have not been permitted to import this equipment which is essential for the projects we have under way to repair sewage and water plants damaged during the Gaza war," Grand told IPS.

About 150,000 Gazans are still deprived of access to sufficient quantities of safe drinking water, while 90 percent experience intermittent power cuts. Gazans in need of medical attention abroad are struggling to get permits.

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