A United Nations fact-finding mission into the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which led to the death of 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, says it has found evidence that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The United Nations is giving both sides six months to investigate their own actions or it will refer the allegations to the International Criminal Court.
The 575 page ‘Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ by the Goldstone Commission named after Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African who lead the mission, stresses that no comparison can be made between the Palestinian and Israeli casualties, saying that the first are occupation victims, the second are the aggressors and occupiers.
The report declares: “The mission concludes that the Israeli offensive in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009 was a planned and deliberately disproportionate attack to punish, humiliate and terrorise the civilian population, radically reducing its capacity to support itself, forcing it to a growing sense of dependence and vulnerability”.
It goes on, “Cast Lead [the name of the offensive] is part of a continuum of policies to reach Israeli goals in Gaza and the West Bank. Many of these policies, says the report presented to the UN Human Rights Council, are based or result in violations of international human rights. Military goals that Israeli authorities declared on those occasions do not explain what was noted during the mission and are not congruous with the situation on the ground identified during the inquiry. The offensive and combination of Israeli policies strengthen the vision of the mission as a collective punishment intentionally inflicted by the government of Israel against Gaza."
The report stresses that Cast Lead was less a reaction to the launch of missiles from Gaza, as much as it was a planned operation aimed at punishing the population’s support for Hamas in an attempt to weaken its capacity to resist.
The report suggests Cast Lead was part of a wider policy of dividing and distancing Gaza from the West Bank, enabling the construction of Jewish settlements within the latter, undermining the democratic institutions and hitting democratically elected Palestinian MPs.
“While the Israeli government has tried to present its offensives as a response to the launch of Qassam rockets in self-defence," the UN mission considers that the plan was directed, at least partly, against the “population of Gaza”.
In this sense, the continuous errors in separating civilians from combatants appear to be “the result of orders deliberately handed to soldiers rather than human errors”.