Date: 12 March 2009
Time: 15:00 GMT
Confirmed figures reveal the true
extent of the destruction inflicted upon the Gaza Strip; Israel’s
offensive resulted in 1,417 dead, including 926 civilians, 255 police
officers, and 236 fighters.
The Israeli offensive launched on the Gaza Strip between
27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 resulted in extensive death, injury
and destruction throughout the Gaza Strip. Only now is the true extent
of the devastation becoming apparent.
The offensive took place in the context of an ongoing
international armed conflict and belligerent occupation. International
humanitarian law (IHL) lays down stringent, legally-binding, obligations
regulating the conduct of hostilities. Of primary relevance is the
principle of distinction, which obliges all Parties to the conflict to
distinguish between combatants and non-combatants (including civilians).
Civilians and civilian objects must be spared the effects of any
hostilities to the greatest extent possible. This is the core premise on
which IHL is founded. Consequent to this fundamental obligation, IHL
also regulates the methods and means used in an attack. In short, all
precautions must be taken to restrict any damage and destruction beyond
that absolutely required by military necessity.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’ (PCHR)
investigations reveal that throughout the course of the assault, Israeli
Occupation Forces (IOF) used excessive, indiscriminate force, in
violation of the principle of distinction. This claim is evidenced by
the disproportionately high rate of death amongst the civilian
population, when compared to that of resistance fighters. IOF also
wilfully violated the principle of distinction as a result of their
illegal classification of law enforcement officials as combatants.
Uniformed units of law enforcement agencies are not considered members
of armed forces (combatants), unless explicitly recognised as such.
Over the course of the 22 day Israeli assault on the Gaza
Strip, a total of 1,417 Palestinians were killed. Of these, 236 were
combatants. The vast majority of the dead, however, were civilians and
non-combatants: protected persons according to the principles of IHL.
PCHR investigations confirm that, in total, 926 civilians lost their
lives, including 313 children and 116 women. 255 police officers were
also killed; the majority (240) in air strikes carried out on the first
day of the attacks. The Ministry of Health have also confirmed that a
total of 5,303 Palestinians were injured in the assault, including 1,606
children and 828 women.
The excessively disproportionate civilian death toll, and
Israel’s conduct of hostilities – including, inter alia,
indiscriminate attacks, wilful killing, the extensive destruction of
property, target selection, the lack of precautions taken in attack, the
excessive use of force, and the use of weapons such as white phosphorous
in civilian areas – demand effective judicial redress. Many of the cases
documented by PCHR constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions,
and war crimes. The widespread and apparently systematic violations of
customary IHL witnessed in the Gaza Strip may also amount to a crime
PCHR call on all States to fulfil their legal
obligations, as codified in Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,
to prosecute any persons suspected of committing grave breaches of the
Geneva Conventions. All States must enact appropriate legislation to
ensure that such persons may be tried in national courts, in accordance
with the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Further, PCHR affirm that, if the civilian population are
to rebuild their lives and attempt to recover from the devastation
wreaked on the Gaza Strip, then borders must be opened: aid and
reconstruction material must be allowed into the Gaza Strip. As the
Occupying Power, the State of Israel has a legal obligation, codified in
the Fourth Geneva Convention, to allow unrestricted humanitarian access.
Further, if the resources in the occupied territory are inadequate – as
is currently the case in the Gaza Strip – then Article 55 of the Fourth
Geneva Convention places a specific obligation on the Occupying Power
(Israel) to provide the articles necessary to ensure the safety and
wellbeing of the civilian population.
While strongly condemning the actions of the IOF during
their offensive on the Gaza Strip, PCHR:
Calls for establishing
effective international investigation into crimes committed by IOF
against Palestinian civilians, and Israel’s conduct of hostilities.
Calls for the prosecution
of all political and military officials who are accused of committing
war crimes against Palestinian civilians.
Calls for an end to all
measures of collective punishment inflicted on the population of the
Gaza Strip, including a lifting of the siege, and ensuring the free and
safe movement of persons and goods.
Calls upon Israel to fulfil
its obligations as the Occupying Power to facilitate unrestricted
humanitarian access, and to provide those articles necessary to ensure
the safety and wellbeing of the civilian population.
Calls upon the
international community to immediately intervene to prevent impunity for
such crimes, and calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva
Conventions to fulfil their obligation under Article 1 of the Convention
to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, as well as
their obligation under Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to
search for and prosecute those who are responsible for perpetrating
grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Republishing this press
release today holding the same date on which it was originally
published, PCHR would like to point out that today's version of the
press release had the last updated statistics of victims, especially
with regard to their categories of age. PCHR calls for accrediting
this new version of the press release with regard the numbers of
victims of the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip (27
December 2008 – 18 January 2009).
19 March 2009
A List of Victims of the Israeli Military Offensive on the Gaza
Strip (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009) "
in Arabic " (Update 19 March 2009)