Gaza Bloodbath          29 Mar 2008



I do not apologise for starting with this horrible cartoon. It comments more powerfully than I can on the horror experienced by people in Gaza. It also points out the complicity of governments such as our own in the suffering Israel is inflicting on the Gazans, in defiance international humanitarian law.


Reports from the field workers of the human rights organization, Al Mezan, show that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed 236 people in the Gaza Strip in the period between 1 January 2008 and 3 March. They found that 117 were killed during “Operation Warm Winter” which lasted from 27 February to 3 March. 29 were children and 6 were women. Over 200 Gazans were wounded during the onslaught, more than a quarter of them children. Only 42 of the dead were members of armed resistance groups. What sick mind thought up the anodyne name for such horror and terror?


The IOF frequently targets ambulances or prevents them from going to help the injured. This happened three times on 1 March. With much difficulty, an ambulance crew got permission from the IOF to attend an injured girl. However, as the vehicle went to her soldiers fired at it, immobilizing it. Thus denied help, she bled to death.  After being shot in his home, a young man also bled to death because the IOF refused to let an ambulance crew go to him. In addition, a paramedic was seriously wounded when the IOF fired on ambulances going to the aid of people at the site of a helicopter rocket attack.


The blockade to which Israel has subjected Gaza following the democratic election of a Hamas-led government in January 2006, considerably reduced the ability of hospitals to cope with the large number of casualties caused by the Israeli onslaught. They were already short of drugs and medical supplies. Electricity cuts caused additional problems and there was only enough fuel to run half the ambulances.


Many houses and other buildings were damaged or destroyed during “Operation Warm Winter.” On 29 February and again on 1 March, neighbours showed great courage by congregating in large numbers at houses the IOF had said they were going to bombard. The non-violent resisters reasoned, fortunately correctly, that the IOF would not risk international condemnation by killing so many people together.


 - - - - - - - -


Where law ends, tyranny begins – John Locke


Nominally, Israel is a party to the the Fourth Geneva Convention, the main international treaty providing for the protection of civilians exposed to armed conflict.  


Al Mezan’s records document the systematic use of excessive and lethal force by the IOF against civilians, with the deliberate killing and injuring of many, including children. This killing of civilians is clearly a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva convention. Articles 146 and 147 state that those who commit grave breaches of the convention, such as the wilful killing of civilians, must be brought to trial, and that each Contracting Party is under an obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches.


Article 33 stipulates that no civilian may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. The siege to which Israel has subjected Gaza for over a year prohibits entry and exit of goods, including essential supplies such as food, medicine, fuel, and electricity, is therefore a despicable form of collective punishment imposed on a protected civilian population, contravening the absolute prohibition of such actions by international humanitarian law.


In his report to the UN General Assembly on 21 January 2008 , the Special Raporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, John Dugard, stated: “Israel remains the occupying Power in Gaza . . . This means that its actions must be measured against the standards of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Judged by these standards Israel is in serious violation of its legal obligations. The collective punishment of Gaza by Israel is expressly prohibited by international humanitarian law and has resulted in a serious humanitarian crisis.” Richard Falk, who is due to take over as Raporteur in May, has likened Israel's vicious siege of Gaza to the way the Nazis behaved towards the victims of the holocaust.


The Palestinians are the victims of repeated violations of international law and yet Gaza continues to suffer sanctions inflicted by Israel, the US and the EU in an attempt to get rid of a democratically elected government. Shame on our politicians for allowing this to happen. It is for us, their electorate, to keep pressing until they call for an end to this injustice.



Back to Contents

Top of page