New York - Israel violated international law by targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, misusing weapons, deliberately denying medical care to the wounded and attacking medical personnel, the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Gaza said today upon releasing a 37 page report containing new evidence on the facts surrounding Israel's 22 day military offensive in Gaza. The full report can be viewed at www.nlg.org. Photos are also available upon request.
"Our findings join a growing chorus of voices-which include Israeli soldiers themselves-asserting that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians during the Gaza offensive," said Radhika Sainath, one of the attorneys who initiated the seven-day fact-finding delegation to Gaza. "On a number of occasions, Israeli soldiers shot and killed young children as well as unarmed civilians holding white flags-both violations of the laws of war."
The Delegation also uncovered evidence of Israeli soldiers using Palestinians as human shields, acts that constitute war crimes, as well as evidence that the Israeli military targeted civilian infrastructure and grossly misused weapons. Further, Israel denied the wounded access to medical care and routinely fired on emergency medical teams attempting to reach those in need of help. Paramedics and doctors reported to the Delegation that many civilians could have been saved if the Israeli army allowed Palestinian medical services access to the wounded. "On one occasion, when Israeli forces did allow Palestinian medical services to enter an area after four days, soldiers prohibited their ambulances from approaching and paramedics were forced to pile the injured on donkey carts," reported Reem Salahi, a California-based civil rights attorney. "Medical workers were then forced to pull the carts to their ambulances two kilometers away."
The Delegation is calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to investigate the possible misuse of U.S. defense articles by Israel during the Gaza offensive. The Delegation is also calling for the Obama Administration to immediately suspend military aid to Israel until protocols are in place to assure compliance with international humanitarian law. "The United States must take action to ensure that its U.S. foreign assistance is not used in violation of international law," said Thomas Nelson, an Oregon-based attorney specializing in national security law.
A National Lawyers Guild delegation of seven attorneys and one law student traveled to the Gaza Strip from February 2-8, 2009, to investigate the 22 day Israeli military offensive into Gaza that began on December 27, 2009. The objective of the Delegation was to investigate the circumstances that led to the massive Palestinian casualties, to determine what, if any, violations of international law occurred, and whether U.S. domestic law was implicated as a consequence.
Founded in 1937, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York, and it has chapters in every state.
Contact: Paige Cram, NLG Communications Coordinator, 212-679-5100, ext.15