Over the course of the 22 day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, a total of 1,434 Palestinians were killed. Of these, 235 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, 960 civilians lost their lives, including 288 children and 121 women. 239 police officers were also killed; the majority (235) 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 center also released a list of names of the victims, in Arabic and English (pdf).
As Many Killed in 22 Days as in 22 Years of Israeli Casualties
The numbers confirm what I pointed out during the war, a week before it was halted: that the Israeli offensive managed to kill as many Palestinians in those 22 days as the entire death toll of Israelis in the two Palestinian uprisings in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel proper over 20 years, going back to 1987.
No wonder Palestinians are calling for an investigation. "The excessively disproportionate civilian death toll, and Israel’s conduct of hostilities, including," the center writes, "indiscriminate attacks, willful 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."
Calls for an Investigation
But Palestinians aren't alone. On Feb. 1, Haaretz, the Israeli daily, in an editorial entitled "Investigate Now," used almost identical language:
The questions are plentiful and troubling: the mass killing of civilians, among them 300 children and 100 women; the shooting at medical crews; the use of illegal munitions against a civilian population, including white phosphorus shells; the prevention of the evacuation of wounded; bombing and shelling of schools, hospitals, supply convoys and a UN facility. These questions cannot remain unanswered. The suspicion that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza is liable to cause it great damage. This is precisely the moment at which Israel needs to preempt the others and investigate itself.And on Monday, 16 of the world's most experienced investigators, judges, human rights advocates and experts, called for an international investigation into alleged abuses of international law in an open letter to the United Nations Secretary General and the UN Security Council.
"Without setting the record straight in a credible and impartial manner, it will be difficult for those communities that have borne the heavy cost of violence to move beyond the terrible aftermath of conflict and help build a better peace," the signatories wrote. They continued,
A prompt, independent and impartial investigation would provide a public record of gross violations of international humanitarian law committed and provide recommendations on how those responsible for crimes should be held to account. We have seen at first hand the importance of investigating the truth and delivering justice for the victims of conflict and believe it is a precondition to move forward and achieve peace in the Middle East.Among the signatories: Desmond Tutu, the Nobel prize winner and chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1995-1998), and Justice Richard J. Goldstone (South Africa) , chairman of the South Africa Standing Commission of Inquiry Regarding Public Violence and Intimidation (1991-1994), chief prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda (1994-1996), Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa (1996-2003) and chairman of the UN Independent Inquiry Commission on Kosovo (1999).
Israel's Official Rebuff
Israel's response: "Only an NGO like Amnesty International that has no political responsibility has allowed itself to make such allegations based on very partial inquiries and to launch a call to the UN on the basis of partial testimonies and newspaper clippings is totally irresponsible." Those are the words of Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman.
In other words, discredit the messenger in a tortured non-sequitur, without, of course, paying attention to the credit and stature of the 16 individuals signing the letter, and hope the stratagem decoy enough those aggravating voices of accountability.