Author: iffyc

Freedom fighter, dissident, progressive, musician...

Evidence That Israel Has Deliberately Targeted Civilians (2006-Present)

I have collected statements from Israeli politicians and soldiers, as well as from human rights organisations, UN officials and other credible mainstream sources, which prove that Israel has deliberately targeted civilians in Lebanon and Gaza. This is intended as an educational resource.

Lebanon War (2006)

Death toll: 1,000 Lebanese civilians killed

  • Just prior to the Israeli invasion, IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz threatened to “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years” (i.e. to when it was in the midst of a destructive, brutal civil war) if Hezbollah did not free the soldiers that it had captured.
  • During the war, a senior officer in the Israeli Air Force told army radio that Halutz had ordered them to “destroy 10 multi-storey buildings in the Dahaya district (of Beirut) in response to every rocket fired on Haifa”.
  • Within the final 72 hours of the war – after the UN Security Council had already passed a ceasefire resolution – Israel dropped more than 4 million cluster submunitions on south Lebanon. Entire villages were made uninhabitable. In their report ‘Flooding South Lebanon’, Human Rights Watch stated the following: “Based on their personal observations, experts from Human Rights Watch and the UN have judged the level and density of post-conflict contamination in south Lebanon to be far worse than that found in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Kosovo following the use of cluster munitions in those countries”. HRW further stated: “It is inconceivable that Israel, which has used cluster weapons on many previous occasions, did not know that that its strikes would have a lasting humanitarian impact”.
  • A commander in the IDF told Haaretz: “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs”.

Blockade Of Gaza (2007-Present)

Death toll: 1,000 Palestinian civilians killed

  • Dov Weisglass, advisor to then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, stated in 2006: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger”.
  • Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated in 2008 after visiting Gaza: “Their whole civilisation has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating”.
  • Also in 2008, Human Rights Watch called on the Israeli government “to immediately lift restrictions on the flow into Gaza of food, medicines, and other supplies essential for the well-being of the civilian population and to cease all measures that amount to collective punishment of the civilian population, including disruptions to the electricity supply and fuel cuts”.
  • Amnesty International stated in 2010: “As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law”.
  • Also in 2010, the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha published a partial list of items that Israel had prohibited from entering Gaza; these included cumin, coriander, jam, chocolate, biscuits and sweets, potato chips, dried fruit, fresh meat, fabric (for clothing), musical instruments, size A4 paper, toys, cattle and chicks.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross stated in 2012: “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law”.
  • Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and specialist on Gaza’s economy, stated in 2016: “Innocent human beings, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned by the water they drink and likely by the soil in which they plant” [a reference to the fact that 97% of the water in Gaza is contaminated].
  • Robert Piper, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, stated in 2017: “We talk about the unlivability of Gaza. When you’re down to two hours of power a day and you have 60 percent youth unemployment rates… that unlivability threshold has been passed quite a long time ago”.
  • Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated in 2018 that the people of Gaza “are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death”.

Operation Cast Lead (2008-9)

Death toll: 1,200 Palestinian civilians killed

  • During the operation, then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated: “Hamas now understands that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing”.
  • The day after the operation ended, Livni stated: “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded”.
  • Many testimonies from Israeli soldiers collected by the NGO Breaking The Silence reveal that they deliberately targeted civilians. One soldier stated: “You felt like a child playing around with a magnifying glass, burning up ants”.
  • Another soldier stated: “If you’re not sure, kill. Fire power was insane… You see a house, a window, shoot at the window. You don’t see a terrorist there? Fire at the window. It was real urban warfare. This is the difference between urban warfare and a limited confrontation. In urban warfare, anyone is your enemy. No innocents”.
  • Another soldier stated: “The amount of destruction there was incredible. You drive around those neighborhoods, and can’t identify a thing. Not one stone left standing over another. You see plenty of fields, hothouses, orchards, everything devastated. Totally ruined. It’s terrible. It’s surreal”.
  • Another soldier stated: “Let’s say that the general approach was ‘we’re going off to war’ and I can swear I heard our brigade commander at least once, when sitting with us during maneuvers for a combatants’ talk around the campfire at Tze’elim at night – he happened to join us and we asked him what was going on in Gaza and what was to be expected, stuff like that, and he went so far as to say this was war and in war as in war, no consideration of civilians was to be taken. You shoot anyone you see. I’m paraphrasing here, not literally quoting, but the gist of the matter was very clear”.
  • Another soldier stated: “In short, what shocked me was a talk we had with the commander of ***, he’s a colonel, and he gave our whole battalion a talk. The tone of it was really, first of all he started out with something like “Unfortunately we’re a democracy, so we can’t demolish Gaza to the extent that we’d really like.” Perhaps he didn’t actually say “unfortunately,” but he repeated, twice, that “the fact that we’re a democracy works against us, for the army cannot act as aggressively as it would like.” Then he said once again that we’re going into this operation aggressively, without… Usually in such talks the army, the commanders mention the lives of civilians and showing consideration to civilians. Here he didn’t even mention this. Just the brutality, go in there brutally… He said, “In case of any doubt, take down houses. You don’t need confirmation for anything, if you want'”.

Operation Protective Edge (2014)

Death toll: 1,500 Palestinian civilians killed

  • Many testimonies from Israeli soldiers collected by the NGO Breaking The Silence reveal that they deliberately targeted civilians. One soldier stated: “The instructions are to shoot right away. Whoever you spot – be they armed or unarmed, no matter what. The instructions are very clear. Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes – shoot to kill. It’s an explicit instruction”.
  • Another soldier stated: “Me personally, deep inside I mean, I was a bit bothered, but after three weeks in Gaza, during which you’re shooting at anything that moves – and also at what isn’t moving, crazy amounts – you aren’t anymore really… The good and the bad get a bit mixed up, and your morals get a bit lost and you sort of lose it, and it also becomes a bit like a computer game, totally cool and real”.
  • Another soldier stated: “I remember that the level of destruction looked insane to me. It looked like a movie set, it didn’t look real. Houses with crumbled balconies, animals everywhere, lots of dead chickens and lots of other dead animals. Every house had a hole in the wall or a balcony spilling off of it, no trace left of any streets at all. I knew there used to be a street there once, but there was no trace of it left to see”.
  • Another soldier stated: “We fired ridiculous amounts of fire, lots of it, and relatively speaking our fire was nothing. We had spike missiles (guided antitank missiles) and artillery, and there were three tanks with us at all times – and another two D9s (armored bulldozers). I don’t know how they pulled it off, the D9 operators didn’t rest for a second. Nonstop, as if they were playing in a sandbox. Driving back and forth, back and forth, razing another house, another street. And at some point there was no trace left of that street. It was hard to imagine there even used to be a street there at all. It was like a sandbox, everything turned upside down. And they didn’t stop moving. Day and night, 24/7, they went back and forth, gathering up mounds, making embankments, flattening house after house”.
  • Another soldier stated: “There weren’t really any rules of engagement, it was more protocols. The idea was, if you spot something – shoot. They told us: “There aren’t supposed to be any civilians there. If you spot someone, shoot.” Whether it posed a threat or not wasn’t a question, and that makes sense to me. If you shoot someone in Gaza it’s cool, no big deal”.
  • Another soldier stated: “When we first entered [the Gaza Strip] there was this ethos about Hamas – we were certain that the moment we went in our tanks would all be up in flames. But after 48 hours during which no one shoots at you and they’re like ghosts, unseen, their presence unfelt – except once in a while the sound of one shot fired over the course of an entire day – you come to realize the situation is under control. And that’s when my difficulty there started, because the formal rules of engagement – I don’t know if for all soldiers – were, “Anything still there is as good as dead. Anything you see moving in the neighborhoods you’re in is not supposed to be there. The [Palestinian] civilians know they are not supposed to be there. Therefore whoever you see there, you kill… Anything you see in the neighborhoods you’re in, anything within a reasonable distance, say between zero and 200 meters – is dead on the spot. No authorization needed'”.
  • Another soldier stated: “There were no rules of engagement. If you see anyone in that area, that person is a terrorist”.

Great March of Return (2018-Present)

Death toll: 214 Palestinian civilians killed

  • The UN Human Rights Council released a report in February 2019 which concluded that Israeli snipers intentionally shot children, health workers, journalists and disabled people.
  • In that same report, the UN Human Rights Council described numerous cases wherein civilians were intentionally shot by Israeli snipers. For example: “Ibrahim Abu Shaar (17): On 30 March, Israeli forces shot Ibrahim, a candy seller from Rafah, in the back of the head as he walked away, approximately 100 m from the separation fence, after he and his companion threw stones at Israeli soldiers. He died almost instantly”.
  • Another example: “Wisal Sheikh-Khalil (14): On 14 May, Israeli forces shot Wisal from the Maghazi refugee camp in the head when she was approximately 100 m from the separation fence, after she had approached it several times to hang a Palestinian flag there. She died instantly”.
  • Another example: “Yasser Abu Naja (11): On 29 June, Israeli forces killed Yasser from Khan Younis with a shot to the head as he was hiding with two friends behind a bin, approximately 200 m from the separation fence. The children had been chanting national slogans at Israeli forces”.
  • Another example: “Razan Najar (20): On 1 June, an Israeli sniper bullet hit Razan, of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and who at the time was wearing a white paramedic vest and standing with other volunteer paramedics approximately 110 m from the separation fence, in the chest at the Khuzaa site, east of Khan Younis. She died in hospital”.
  • After dozens of civilians were killed by Israeli snipers, the IDF’s official Twitter account posted this statement: “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed”.
  • In April 2018, then Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated: “You have to understand, there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip”.

Message From a Muslim to Non-Muslims

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A few years ago, when ISIS was all over the headlines and Islamophobia was surging in the UK, the following headline appeared in The Daily Mail: ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis’. The article was later investigated by the press regulator, Ipso, and was found to be significantly misleading. At the time, I remember feeling like it was a personal attack on me, because it was implying that I might be in some way sympathetic to ISIS even though I abhorred everything that they were doing. It was implying that I didn’t really belong in the UK, because my religion made me a potential terrorist; a hostile entity, a virus. I felt like the society I had lived in all my life hated me; when I got home from school, I lay down in bed and just cried into my pillow.

Fast-forward to last year. I was walking to a friend’s house in Nottingham, and these two guys cycled past me while staring me down. As they passed, one of them hissed at me, “ISIS”. At first I didn’t realise what he had said, but then a few seconds later it hit me. Once again, I was painfully aware that I was being judged purely on the basis of my skin colour and my religion to be a terrorist, even though if I was living in ISIS-controlled territory I would probably be one of the first ones that they would kill, given that I support gay rights, women’s rights, religious freedom, freedom of speech and democracy. None of that mattered to these guys, though; I’m a brown Muslim, so therefore I’m no different than ISIS.

A few days ago, I went to see a panel discussion at Nottingham Trent uni, featuring the right-wing American activists Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, as well as the founders of Turning Point UK, a newly established right-wing student movement. I got into an argument with them about US foreign policy in the Middle East, during which they defended bombing and sanctioning Muslim countries. Most of the audience was white and non-Muslim, and, judging by their raucous applause, overwhelmingly agreed with the panelists.

I found out recently that Candace Owens has previously tweeted: “according to the birth rate, Europe will fall and become a Muslim majority continent by 2050. There has never been a muslim majority country where sharia law was not implemented”, and “if France wants to defend itself against anything, it ought to be against the declining birth rate of its people. All signs indicate that it will be a Muslim majority country in just 40 years! Defend your culture first, @EmmanuelMacron! We are your allies”. The terrorist who shot dead 49 Muslims in Christchurch cited Candace Owens as his main inspiration.

When I see people who I went to school with sharing posts on Facebook about how Islam is destroying the West, praising Tommy Robinson and referring to British Muslims as “invaders”; when these same people accuse me of supporting Sharia law even though I have never advocated for Sharia law in my life, and never will; when I see people like Melanie Phillips and Douglas Murray getting slots on the BBC and being treated like respectable commentators, even though the former believes that Islamophobia isn’t real and that all 1.6 billion Muslims are terrorists, while the latter believes that Muslims should have fewer civil liberties than non-Muslims and that Europe is being destroyed by Muslim immigration; when I see headlines in The Daily Mail like ‘Muslim Plot To Kill Pope’, ‘Muslims Tell British: Go To Hell’, and ‘Ramadan A Ding-Dong’; and when I see articles in ‘respectable’ journals like The Spectator saying that there is “not nearly enough Islamophobia within the Tory party”, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed sometimes.

I’m not trying to play the victim. I live a very comfortable life compared with millions of people throughout the world. But it’s hard not to be emotionally affected by all of this, and this rampant Islamophobia leads to atrocities like the one carried out in Christchurch. Please remember: Muslims don’t want special treatment. We just want to be treated like human beings.

UNHRC Report on Gaza: Key Findings

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The UN Human Rights Council recently published a report on Israel’s killings of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza. Its key findings are summarised below:

 

Key Finding #1: The Great March of Return was not organised by Hamas, but by a wide array of civil society groups and activists of many different political persuasions.

The report states that the idea of the Great March of Return was first devised by a 34-year-old Palestinian poet and journalist named Ahmed Abu Artema; thereafter, “Abu Artema, civil society activists and other stakeholders drew up a charter of 12 principles, envisaging a national march by Palestinians of all ages, genders, political and social groups”.

Subsequently, a national committee and 12 sub-committees were established to organise the planning of the demonstrations; its members came from many different sectors of Palestinian society, “including civil society, cultural and social organizations, student unions, women’s groups, eminent persons and members of clans”. Representatives from Hamas, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were also present, although, crucially, “the armed wings of these parties were not represented on the committee”.

Despite the varying political persuasions of the members of the committee, “the unifying element was the principle that the march was to be “fully peaceful from beginning to the end” and demonstrators would be unarmed”.

 

Key Finding #2: The demonstrations were civilian in nature.

The report states that “the demonstrations were civilian in nature, had clearly stated political aims and, despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign”. Crucially, the report affirms that this assessment “did not change following the commission’s investigation into the demonstrators’ affiliation to or membership in organized armed groups”.

 

Key Finding #3: The demonstrations were family-friendly events.

The first demonstrations, which began on 30 May 2018, were “reportedly attended that day by between 40,000 and 50,000 Palestinian men, women, children, elders, civil society and political activists, and public figures”. According to the report, the atmosphere was “initially festive, with activities in tents including poetry readings, seminars, lectures and cultural and sporting activities”. Israeli security forces responded almost immediately with live ammunition.

 

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Here are some excerpts from the report detailing specific cases of unarmed demonstrators being severely injured and/or killed:

• Mohammad Obeid (24)
Mohammad was a footballer. At approximately 9 a.m., Israeli forces shot him with a single bullet in both legs while he was walking alone approximately 150 m from the separation fence. His injuries ended his football career.

• Schoolboy (16)
Israeli forces shot a schoolboy in the face as he distributed sandwiches to demonstrators, 300 m from the separation fence. His hearing is now permanently impaired.

• Yousef Kronz (19)
Israeli forces shot Yousef, a student journalist, in the legs with two bullets in immediate succession. He was wearing a blue vest marked “Press” while photographing the demonstrations approximately 800 m from the separation fence. His right leg had to be amputated.

• Mohammad Ajouri (17)
Israeli forces shot Mohammad, a student athlete, in the back of his right leg as he gave onions to demonstrators to relieve tear-gas symptoms, approximately 300 m from the fence. His leg had to be amputated.

• Abdel Fatah Nabi (18)
Israeli forces killed Abed, from Beit Lahia, when they shot him in the back of the head as he ran, carrying a tyre, away from and about 400 m from the separation fence.
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Key Finding #4: Hamas was not responsible for incendiary kites, wire cutting or tyre burning.

The report states that some activities, such as “the launching of incendiary kites, cutting barbed wire or tyre burning, began to be organized by self-declared “units”, some of them through their own Facebook pages. The commission found no evidence to suggest that they were directed or coordinated by armed groups”.

 

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Here are some further excerpts from the report detailing specific cases of unarmed demonstrators being severely injured and/or killed during the demonstrations on May 14:

• Yasser Habeeb (24)
Yasser, from Gaza City, was shot in the neck by Israeli forces when he was approximately 100 m from the fence, throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and burning tyres. He died on 25 May.

• Ala’a Khteeb (27)
Ala’a, from Gaza City, was among a group of young men and women who cut through the barbed wire coils and approached the separation fence shouting “God is great”. Israeli forces shot Ala’a in the head. He died the same day.

• Husein Abu Aweida (41)
Israeli forces shot Husein, a food seller from Gaza City, in the back as he stood about 200m from the separation fence. He died of his wounds two weeks later.

• Schoolboy (16)
Israeli forces shot a schoolboy from Shuja’iya, Gaza City in the leg with live ammunition when he was approximately 80 m from the separation fence. He underwent three leg amputations.

• Mohammad Najar (33)
Israeli forces shot Mohammad, a naval police officer, in the chest, killing him, as he sat on a hill with a friend, around 500 m from the separation fence.

• Mahmoud Jundya (20)
Israeli forces shot Mahmoud, a journalism student from Gaza City, in the leg as he filmed the demonstrations on his mobile phone, 50 m from the separation fence. Israeli forces then killed him with a shot to the back as he lay on the ground.
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This is an excerpt from the report featuring the testimony of an international journalist covering the demonstrations on May 14:

“What was notable was the amount of injured people. And the slow, methodical shooting. Every few minutes… you would hear a shot ring out and you would see someone fall. And then another shot and another person fell. It went on for hours…

I saw a man who had been shot in the throat, I didn’t see it happen but I saw the immediate aftermath. He was covered in blood. I saw a man who had been shot in the head…

There was a constant stream of bloody bodies being carried back towards the ambulances. It was surreal and endless. It became almost normal, it was happening so often. A shot, a person falling, people carrying the body away.

The number of wounded was astonishing. I couldn’t say how many people I saw who were shot because it was so high. I have covered wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya. I have never seen anything like this. The slow methodical shooting. It was just shocking…”
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Here are some further excerpts from the report detailing specific cases of children being shot dead by Israeli snipers:

• Ibrahim Abu Shaar (17)
On 30 March, Israeli forces shot Ibrahim, a candy seller from Rafah, in the back of the head as he walked away, approximately 100 m from the separation fence, after he and his companion threw stones at Israeli soldiers. He died almost instantly.

• Wisal Sheikh-Khalil (14)
On 14 May, Israeli forces shot Wisal from the Maghazi refugee camp in the head when she was approximately 100 m from the separation fence, after she had approached it several times to hang a Palestinian flag there. She died instantly.

• Yasser Abu Naja (11)
On 29 June, Israeli forces killed Yasser from Khan Younis with a shot to the head as he was hiding with two friends behind a bin, approximately 200 m from the separation fence. The children had been chanting national slogans at Israeli forces.

• Mohammad Hoom (14)
On 28 September, Israeli forces shot Mohammad, from the Bureij camp, in his chest as he ran away from the separation fence. The bullet hit his heart; he died the same day.
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Key Finding #5: Israeli security forces intentionally shot children who posed no threat to them.

“The commission found that Israeli security forces used lethal force against children who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to its soldiers. Four of the children were shot as they walked or ran away from the fence.

Several children were recognizable as such when they were shot. The commission finds reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot them intentionally, knowing that they were children”.

 

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Here are some excerpts from the report detailing specific cases of medical personnel being shot dead by Israeli snipers:

• Razan Najar (20)
On 1 June, an Israeli sniper bullet hit Razan, of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and who at the time was wearing a white paramedic vest and standing with other volunteer paramedics approximately 110 m from the separation fence, in the chest at the Khuzaa site, east of Khan Younis. She died in hospital.

• Abed Abdullah Qotati (22)
On 10 August, in Rafah, Israeli forces killed Abed, who was wearing a white paramedic jacket and carrying a red first-aid kit, with a shot to the chest as he was tending to a wounded demonstrator near the separation fence. He died that day.
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Key Finding #6: Israeli security forces intentionally shot medical personnel.

“The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers intentionally shot health workers, despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such”.

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Here are some excerpts from the report detailing specific cases of journalists being shot dead by Israeli snipers:

• Yasser Murtaja (30)
On 6 April, Yasser, a journalist from Gaza City, was shot in the lower abdomen by Israeli forces at the Khan Younis site while he was filming the demonstrations for a documentary. He was wearing a blue helmet and a dark blue bulletproof vest clearly marked “Press”. He died the following day.

• Ahmed Abu Hussein (24)
On 13 April, Ahmed, a journalist from the Jabaliya refugee camp was shot by an Israeli sniper in the lower abdomen at the north Gaza site while he was taking photographs of the demonstrations, approximately 300 m from the separation fence. He was wearing a blue helmet and a blue vest clearly marked “Press”. He died of his injuries 12 days later.
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Key Finding #7: Israeli security forces intentionally shot journalists.

“The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot journalists intentionally, despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such”.

 

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Here are some excerpts from the report detailing specific cases of disabled people being shot dead by Israeli snipers:

• Fadi Abu Salmi (29, double amputee)
Fadi, from Khan Younis, had had both legs amputated following an Israeli airstrike in 2008. On 14 May, Israeli snipers shot him in the chest at the Abasan Al-Jadida protest site, where he was sitting in his wheelchair with two friends approximately 300 m from the separation fence. He died immediately.

• Ahmad Abu Aqel (24, walked with crutches)
Ahmad, from the Jabaliya refugee camp, walked with crutches, having been injured by Israeli forces during a demonstration in 2017. On 20 April, Israeli forces shot him in the back of the head as he sat on a hill approximately 150 m from the separation fence. He died that day.

• Mohammad Abdulnaby (27, walked with crutches)
Mohammad, from the Jabaliya refugee camp, walked with crutches. On 26 October, Israeli forces killed him with a shot to the head, approximately 200 m from the separation fence.
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Key Finding #8: Israeli security forces intentionally shot disabled people.

“The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that the Israeli snipers shot these demonstrators intentionally, despite seeing that they had visible disabilities”.

 

Key Finding #9: Many of the injuries inflicted on demonstrators have been life-changing.

The report states that “21 people became paralysed by injuries to the spinal cord and nine people suffered permanent loss of vision”. Shockingly, more people “lost limbs during the demonstrations than during the entire Israel-Gaza conflict of 2014”. As of 31 December 2018, “122 demonstrators had undergone amputations, including 20 children and a woman; of these, 98 were lower-limb amputations”.

 

Key Finding #10: Israeli security forces targeted the groins of demonstrators.

The report details the following case of a 15-year-old boy suffering a particularly debilitating injury: “On 26 October, at the maritime demonstration site in North Gaza, Israeli forces shot a schoolboy, standing some 120 m from the separation fence, with a single bullet to the testicles. He is now unable to walk more than 30 m and has been forced to drop out of school”.

The report goes on to state that the commission found that “Israeli security forces shot a number of male demonstrators in the lower abdomen and groin. It also received reports of women being shot in the groin. These victims have told the commission that they were now unlikely to be able to have children”.

 

Key Finding #11: The injuries that demonstrators suffered have been particularly devastating and complex.

“According to an international doctor working at a Gaza hospital, interviewed by the commission, “It was striking the number of extremely similar injuries; massive open wounds in the legs, with skin and muscles ‘blown out’, bones smashed to pieces, and damage to blood vessels leading to vascular injury, putting the entire limb at risk”‘.

 

◙ Key Finding #12: Injured demonstrators have been unable to seek treatment abroad due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

“As the health system in Gaza deteriorated owing to the blockade, doctors began to refer cases requiring equipment and expertise that were unavailable to hospitals in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and abroad. Israeli and Egyptian authorities denied, delayed or did not respond to several requests of persons to exit Gaza for medical treatment, with fatal consequences”.

 

Key Finding #13: Israel’s targeting of unarmed demonstrators was illegal under international law.

“The commission… found reasonable grounds to believe that demonstrators were shot in violation of their right to life or of the principle of distinction under international humanitarian law”.

 

Key Finding #14: Israel’s targeting of demonstrators who were also members of armed groups was illegal under international law.

A minority of demonstrators who were shot and killed by Israeli security forces belonged to armed groups. According to the report, Israel had no legal right to kill them; “In accordance with the law enforcement paradigm as informed by international human rights law and in the absence of arms and active hostilities, the commission concluded that, in this specific context, targeting individuals purely on the basis of their membership of an armed group and not on their conduct at the time was impermissible. The applicable tests remain whether an individual, at the time targeted, was directly participating in hostilities or posed an imminent threat to life. If not, targeting of such persons with lethal force was unlawful”.

 

Key Finding #15: The blockade of Gaza is illegal.

“The commission found that the ongoing blockade of Gaza and its impact on the health-care system in Gaza, and the ensuing deprivation of essential goods and services necessary for a dignified life, including basic medical supplies, safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation, constitute violations of the fundamental rights to life and health, in particular of wounded demonstrators”.

 

You can read the full report here: https://www.ohchr.org/…/HR…/HRCouncil/CoIOPT/A_HRC_40_74.pdf

Protests Against the Tory Party Conference [VIDEOS]

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It was great to attend the Tory Party Conference last Sunday in Manchester and join the scores of protesters who were standing up to the brutal regime currently residing in Westminster. There were many different leftist groups there – The People’s Assembly, Stop the War Coalition, the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Socialist Party, Unite, Unison, CND, and various others supporting refugees, disabled people and other victims of Tory savagery – along with regular people from all across the country, all uniting to voice their anger at the endless array of injustices being meted out by the government. It was incredible to witness so many people in one place who all want the same thing; a country where compassion, rather than cruelty, is the hallmark of political life.

There was a real sense of internationalism there; people were flying flags in support of Kurdistan, Catalonia and Palestine, and it was a stark reminder that we’re all in this boat together, fighting back against the same tyrants and oppressors, although the repression we face in the UK is obviously not comparable to what others face elsewhere in the world. It was impossible not to feel heartened by the turnout – around 30,000 people – and the renewed confidence with which everyone carried themselves thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning performance in this year’s snap election. There is a tremendous feeling of hope in the country that we can change things for the better; that neoliberalism is not graven in stone. If we can keep the momentum going until the next election, I think we have a decent chance of ousting the Tories and ending the suffering of millions of people both at home and abroad.

America’s Attack on Syria: Some Elementary Observations

  • The strike violated domestic American law, as there was no congressional authorisation, and it violated international law, specifically Article 2 of the UN Charter, which bars the “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”. It was an act of aggression, which is, according to the Nuremberg principles, the “supreme international crime”.
  • The timing of the strike indicates that it was not motivated by humanitarian concerns, as it is unclear who was responsible for the chemical weapons attack, and a logical step would have been to help coordinate an independent investigation to ascertain the facts and then proceed to bring whoever was responsible to justice using legitimate mechanisms (i.e. via the UN). There is no way that in the short space of time between the chemical attack and the US strike that the Trump administration could have gathered irrefutable evidence as to who the culprit was; certainly nothing that would have justified an illegal military attack. The tragedy in Idlib was clearly a pretext for military intervention, rather than the actual reason.
  • The US has once again reaffirmed that it has the right to do whatever it wants in the world, without needing to defer to a higher body or seek approval from anyone, which is perfectly consistent with how rogue states operate.
  • If the principle that it is justified to attack military bases in a sovereign state in order to deter repetition of atrocities was universally applied then military bases in America, Britain, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia and a host of others would all be legitimate targets. Suppose Iran attacked military bases in the UK under the pretext of deterring future aggression of the kind we carried out against Iraq (which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed the region); how might we react?
  • If it turns out that Assad was responsible for the chemical attack in Idlib, he certainly wouldn’t be the only one to have used chemical weapons against defenceless civilians; America and Britain used white phosphorous in Iraq, and America notoriously used it in its attack on Fallujah during which 5000 civilians were killed. Israel used white phosphorous shells to bomb hospitals during its 2008/2009 attack on Gaza. During the 1990s, Turkey dropped US-made napalm on Kurdish villages as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing that was strongly supported by America and Britain. These are just a few examples.
  • The consequences of the attack are likely to be extremely negative; risking military confrontation with Russia is reckless in the extreme. The threat of nuclear war is increasing, and one provocation on either side could easily set off an irreversible chain of events. The attack has done nothing to curb the Assad regime’s military capabilities, but has allegedly succeeded in killing nine civilians. It could even strengthen the regime, which now has added rhetorical justification for carrying out its crimes by being able to repeat the line that it is under attack from the West and is acting defensively. 
  • More commentators and political officials from both parties in the US will now be calling on Trump to escalate and carry out further strikes once it becomes obvious that the limited attack he has already authorised has had no observable consequences on the ground, and he will probably oblige so as not to appear weak. This could end in full-scale invasion, which would be catastrophic (see: Iraq, Libya).
  • If it turns out that the regime was responsible for the chemical attack, one step would be for the UN to oversee the destruction of all of the illegal substances and to move in independent monitors to help stem the atrocities. Whatever influence Trump has with Putin he should use to pressure Russia and Syria to get round the negotiating table (maybe in return for relief from sanctions or promise of investment), and America should stop supplying weapons to the rebel forces, whose own actions are often awful, and end up eliciting a more brutal response from the regime. Aid-drops and an increased intake of refugees would be positive steps in the short-term.

The British Government Descends Deeper Into Moral Chaos

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As the Saudi-led coalition continues to demolish Yemen, the UK’s role in fuelling the ongoing assault is becoming increasingly difficult to defend, both morally and politically. First, General Ahmed al-Asiri, spokesman for the coalition, was pelted with eggs and subjected to an attempted citizen’s arrest on a recent visit to London. Then, just recently, it was revealed that the Metropolitan police are examining allegations of Saudi war crimes in Yemen, committed with the active participation and unconditional support of the UK. As the brutality of the bombing campaign becomes harder to conceal, despite the best efforts of warmongering MPs and their lapdogs in the corporate media to do just that, the government will be forced to churn out even more propaganda than usual in order to justify its role in this unending savagery. The Bahraini government, another renowned defender of human rights and one of the UK’s chief allies in the region, condemned the attempted citizen’s arrest of al-Asiri as a “barbaric assault” committed by a “group of terrorists”, thus inadvertently but aptly summing up the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign in Yemen.

Responding to reports of atrocities, an FCO spokesman has stated: “We regularly raise the importance of compliance with international humanitarian law with the Saudi government and other members of the military coalition and we do not shy away from raising legitimate human rights concerns with our friends”. It’s touching to see British political officials proudly and unashamedly referring to Saudi despots as their “friends”, once again illustrating how admirable our alliances are and how sincere we are in our professed commitments to ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. It’s a mystery how anyone could possibly accuse us of hypocrisy when we lecture other countries on the importance of protecting human rights and upholding ‘Western values’. Moreover, rather than pressuring their “friends” in Riyadh, it would be much easier for members of the Foreign Office to raise “legitimate human rights concerns” with themselves and ponder for a moment why they continue to materially and diplomatically support a campaign which has killed 10,000 civilians, displaced millions more and left an entire country on the brink of famine.

As Britain plummets away from the EU into a dark abyss of political and economic insecurity, the government is forging deeper links with yet more repressive and barbaric regimes. International Trade Minister Liam Fox has announced that the UK is already having informal conversations with twelve countries about post-Brexit trade deals; among them are Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Turkey and Israel. When members of the government announce their vision for a ‘truly global Britain’, this is what they mean; deepening our relations with tyrannical and oppressive regimes, and fuelling yet more violence and suffering around the world. During an interview with Channel 4 News prior to the EU referendum, Noam Chomsky warned that if we were to leave the EU, we could find ourselves “even more subordinated to US power”. He turned out to be correct; Defence Secretary Michael Fallon recently stated: “Our defence relationship with the US is unprecedented in its depth and scope. As we leave the EU, our bilateral relationships matter more than ever, so we’ll be enhancing our cooperation and investing more in our joint F-35 fast jet programme”.

The programme to which Fallon refers is one of the costliest military projects in history, and it’s good to see that, with the NHS in dire straits and a record number of people relying on food banks as of 2016, the government has its priorities sorted with regards to investment. This strengthening of our role as America’s leading ‘junior partner’ is an extremely dangerous development; the government recently deployed 200 out of 800 NATO troops to Estonia, and huge NATO training exercises are underway in Scotland with the obvious purpose of intimidating Russia and exhibiting NATO’s military prowess. Similarly provocative acts can be expected in future (from both sides). Growing Russia-NATO tensions could easily escalate into a potentially terminal situation. As we leave the EU and enter into a new era of uncertainty, the importance of activism and direct action on the part of the citizenry in order to protect human rights and prevent destructive policies from being enacted is especially great. Unless we band together and organise, political elites will be free to do as they please.