Full report: "Israel/Gaza Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 Days of Death and Destruction"
Excerpts and quotes from the 2009 Amnesty International report:
ARTICLE 33 OF THE FOURTH GENEVA CONVENTION OF 1949 SPECIFICALLY PROHIBITS COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT IN THE GAZA STRIP
The prolonged blockade of Gaza, which had already been in place for some 18 months (from June 2007)before Operation “Cast Lead” began, amounts to collective punishment of its entire population.
The Fourth Geneva Convention specifically prohibits collective punishment. Its Article 33 provides: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”
ISRAELI SOLDIER-"WE SHOT ANYTHING THAT MOVED.”
Ofer, a fighter in the Golani Brigade (an elite combat unit of the Israeli army) who was in the first wave of the Israeli military ground offensive in the Gaza Strip which started Jan. 3, 2009, said: “The first time we went in, we were given orders to target our machine guns at every suspicious point that could be used to fire upon us. And we shot at anything that moved. The civilians in the area had already been told that we were coming in, so I don’t feel bad for anyone hurt there. If they remained
there, they must have been Hamas…” (emphasis added)33
29 EXTENDED GAZAN FAMILY MEMBERS KILLED
Salah al-Sammouni told Amnesty International: “Soldiers came to the area al-Zaytoun, the neighbourhood in southern Gaza City at night [on 3 January 2009] and at dawn on 4 January many relatives came to my house to stay with us. We though that if we stayed in our house we would be all right. After a while soldiers came to the house and my father spoke to them in Hebrew; he told them: ‘These are my children, my family, there are no terrorists here.’ The soldiers told us to leave our house and go to Wa’el’s house across the road and we obeyed. We were many relatives, about 100 altogether, many of them children. We stayed there all day and all night. We had hardly any food in the house and the children were hungry. Nobody could come to the area, not even ambulances. We were scared. The following morning (5 January) three of my cousins and I tried to go out of the house, to the walled garden to get some tomatoes and some wood to cook something. As soon as we got out of the door we were shelled. My cousins Muhammad and Hamdi were 21 killed and Wa’el and I were injured and we retreated back into the house. Then the house was shelled again – at least two shells – from above. Some 25 people were killed and most of the others were injured. My little girl, Azza, was killed and my wife was injured. My mother Rahma was holding baby Mahmoud (six months old) and she was killed but she shielded the baby with her body and saved him. My father was killed. Wa’el’s children, a boy and a girl, were both killed. Safa, the wife of my brother Iyad, was killed and Maha, the wife of my brother Hilmi, and their baby son Muhammad were all killed. Why did they shell the house after having put us all in there? We thought we’d all be killed; those of us who could ran out of the house. Many of us were injured; I was injured in the head and blood was pouring down my face as I ran. Nearby there were soldiers in the house of the Sawafiri family and they shouted to us to go back and shot at us, but we kept running. When we got to safety we raised the alarm, called the Red Cross to send an ambulance to the house to get the injured, but the army did not let any ambulances approach the area. We knew there were people still alive in the house because we called the mobile numbers and children answered; they were scared, with dead bodies all around them. Some of the injured died in the house waiting to be rescued. Only three days later could the Red Cross go in, but only on foot as the army did not let the ambulances approach; they found some children still alive and many others dead.” (See further details in Chapter 1.4.2.)
FIVE FAMILY MEMBERS KILLED BY ISRAELI DRONE ATTACK IN GAZA
P 18, 19
The victims were Amal Rmeilat, 29, her 60-year-old mother-in-law and her
three children, Sabreen, 14, Bara’, 13 months, and a two-and-a-half-month-old baby girl, Arij. The children’s father, Atta Hassan Hsein Rmeilat, told Amnesty International: 19
“We had been staying with our relatives in the Sheikh Zayed housing estate across the road from our home, because the large solid apartment buildings there felt safer than our home [Their home is a flimsy structure in the middle of an orchard.] On the morning of 15 January I went back home to fetch milk formula for the baby and my mother and my wife followed me with the children. As I was in the house they sat in the orchard right outside the house. I heard a blast, and I came out of the house and found a scene of carnage. They were all killed instantly. Their bodies were scattered all around. I’ve lost my whole family, all my children, my wife, my mother. I have nothing left.”
At the location of the strike, Amnesty International delegates found the distinctive holes of the tiny cube-shaped metal shrapnel from the missiles usually fired by drones.
FLECHETTES KILL CIVILIANS, INCLUDING A CHILD, A WOMAN AND A PARAMAEDIC
P 38, 39
Several civilians, including a child, a woman and a paramedic, were killed by flechettes – tiny lethal metal darts – during Operation “Cast Lead”. Tank shells packed with thousands of flechettes were used by Israeli forces on at least five occasions between 4 and 9 January, in the north of Gaza and in a village south of Gaza City. Flechettes are 3.5cm-long steel darts, sharply pointed at the front, with four fins at the rear. 39 Between 5,000 and 8,000 of these darts are packed into shells which are generally fired from tanks. The shells explode in the air and scatter the flechetts in a conical pattern over an area about 300m by 100m.
WHITE PHOSPHORUS-THE HORRORS OF INDISCRIMINATE ATTACKS
P 27, 28
“It’s as though a fire is burning in my body. It’s too much for me to bear. In spite of all the medicine they are giving me the pain is still so strong.”
Sixteen-year-old Samia Salman Al-Manay’a, speaking to Amnesty International from a hospital bed 10 days after a white phosphorus shell landed on her house in the Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza on 10 January.
During Operation “Cast Lead” Israeli forces made extensive use of white phosphorus, often launched from 155mm artillery shells, in residential areas, causing death and injuries to civilians. Homes, schools, medical facilities and UN buildings – all civilian objects – took direct hits.
Sabah Abu Halima, a mother of 10, was gravely injured and lost her husband, four of her children and her daughter-in-law as a result of a devastating white phosphorus artillery attack on her family home. In the afternoon of 4 January 2009 she and her family were at home in the Sayafa area, in the north-west of Gaza, when three white phosphorus artillery shells crashed through the roof into her home. She told Amnesty International:
“ Everything caught fire. My husband and four of my children burned alive in front of my eyes; my baby girl, Shahed, my only girl, melted in my arms. How can a mother have to see her children burn alive? I couldn’t save them, I couldn’t help them. I was on fire. Now I am still burning all over, I am in pain day and night; I am suffering terribly.”
WHITE PHOSPHORUS USED BY ISRAEL DAMAGES U.N. COMPOUND AND U. N. SCHOOL KILLING 2 CHILDREN
P 31,32, 33
In the morning of 15 January 2009 several white phosphorus and high-explosive artillery shells struck the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) headquarters in the centre of Gaza City, causing fires which destroyed dozens of tons of desperately needed humanitarian aid and medicines, as well as the workshops and warehouses.
Jodie Clark, an UNRWA staff member, told Amnesty International:
“White phosphorus landed all over the area where the trucks and fuel tankers were parked, full of fuel. We tried to put out the fire but we couldn’t; the fire extinguisher did not tame the fire at all. Some of the burning lumps white phosphorus were right underneath the vehicles; there was a great danger that it would cause the fuel tanker to explode. I dragged the burning lump from under the tanker with a stick and we tried to drive the vehicles out of the compound as fast as we could.”
The workshops and other warehouses were completely charred. Both the buildings and their contents were completely destroyed. At the compound Amnesty International delegates found fragments of several white phosphorus artillery shells, some with the serial markings still visible, and of at least one high-explosive artillery shell.48
Two days later, on 17 January, white phosphorus artillery shells struck an UNRWA primary school in Beit Lahia where more than 1,500 civilians were sheltering, killing two children and injuring several others.
ISRAELI ARMY IS FULLY AWARE THAT WHITE PHOSPHORUS MAY BE LETHAL
A document signed by Colonel Dr Gil Hirschorn, head of trauma in the office of the army’s Chief Medical Officer, states:
“When the phosphorus comes in contact with living tissue it causes its damage by ‘eating’ away at it. Characteristics of a phosphorus wound are: chemical burns accompanied by extreme pain, damage to tissue... the phosphorus may seep into the body and damage internal organs. In the long run, kidney failure and the spread of infection are characteristic... In conclusion: a wound by an ordnance containing explosive phosphorus is inherently dangerous and has the potential to cause serious damage to tissue.”54
Another document entitled “Exposure to White Phosphorus”, prepared by Medical Field Operations Headquarters and sent from the Health Ministry, notes:
“[M]ost of the data on phosphorus wounds stems from animal testing and accidents. Exposure to white phosphorus is highly poisonous, according to many lab experiments. Burns covering a small area of the body, 12-15 percent in lab animals and less than 10 percent in humans, may be lethal as a result of its effects, mostly on the liver, heart and kidneys.”55
PARAMEDICS AND A 12 YEAR OLD BOY KILLED
P 40, 41, 42
Clearly marked ambulances with flashing emergency lights and paramedics wearing recognizable fluorescent vests were repeatedly fired upon as they attempted to rescue the wounded and collect the dead.
Three paramedics – Anas Fadhel Na’im, Yaser Kamal Shbeir and Raf’at Abd al-‘Al – were killed in the early afternoon of 4 January in Gaza City as they walked towards two wounded men. A 12-year-old boy, Omar Ahmad al-Barade’e, who was showing them where the wounded men were, was killed in the same strike. Yahia Hassan, the driver of one of the ambulances, told Amnesty International:
The mother of Omar Ahmad al-Barade’e told Amnesty International:
“After [the missile strike] we could not go near to where his body lay. The day after I crawled to the place and I found my child’s body (the 12 year old) with no legs and I carried him to an ambulance a long way away because nobody could come near there. No ambulance could come to pick up the bodies; the ambulances that tried were fired at. After two days an ambulance finally came, accompanied by a foreign woman, and they took the bodies.”
At the spot where the paramedics and the child were killed, Amnesty International delegates found pieces of the paramedics’ fluorescent vests strewn on the ground and stuck on trees, and remnants of at least two Hellfire missiles, which are usually launched from helicopters.
The label read “guided missile, surface attack” and the USA is cited as the weapon’s country of origin.68
HAMAS ROCKETS CAUSE INJURIES, A FEW DEATHS AND PTSD
P 7, 71, 72
Note:Justice for Palestinians is against all violence including Hamas rockets. Many of the residents of the Israeli town of Sderot which is 1 mile from the northern Gaza border have fortified shelters, a luxury not afforded to the vast majority Gazans subsisting in the world's largest open-air prison. Qassam homemade rockets have a range about 12 miles.The less available imported Grad rockets may reach appoximately 24 miles.
In recent years thousands of residents of Sderot, between 10 and 12 per cent of the population of some 20,000, have moved to other parts of the country, out of range of the rocket attacks.
Dalia Yossef of the Hossen Center, which provides psychological support and rehabilitation for the community, told Amnesty International that recurrent attacks in recent years are taking a high toll on the mental health of both children and adults in and around Sderot:
“Children are afraid to sleep on their own, to be alone, even to go to the toilet alone. They feel that their parents cannot protect them. Bed wetting is a common manifestation of their anxiety and insecurity. Their parents are similarly anxious and frustrated. It is even difficult to speak of PTSD, for as long as the rockets continue to fall the trauma is renewed daily; we are not even in a post-trauma stage.”
AMNESTY CONDEMNS PALESTINIAN ROCKET ATTACKS AGAINST ISRAEL
P 73, 74
Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli civilian population centers and has raised its concerns about such attacks with leaders and members of the political and armed wings of different Palestinian factions and groups. In response, the groups have argued that they have no other weapons, nor any way of obtaining precision weapons like those used by the Israeli army. They also say that they are acting in response to Israeli attacks which have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians for each Israeli killed by rockets.
Whether or not attacks actually result in civilian casualties, they are in violation of international law, which also prohibits attacks aimed at spreading terror among the civilian population. The patterns of attacks and statements by members and leaders of Palestinian groups also indicate that they have no qualms about launching attacks against civilians and that they in fact carry out such attacks intending to kill and injure Israeli civilians. Such attacks constitute war crimes.
EIGHTEEN ISRAELI CITIZENS HAVE BEEN KILLED BY HAMAS ROCKETS IN A 5 YEAR PERIOD (JUNE 2004 TO JUNE 2009)
(note: Eighteen Israelis citizens were killed by Hamas rockets in a 5 year period. Twenty nine Palestinian civilians were killed by Israelis in one day (Jan. 4, 2009) during Operation “Cast Lead.”
Eighteen Israeli civilians, including four children, have been killed in Israel by rocket and mortar launched from Gaza since June 2004, when the first fatality from such attacks occurred.(112) Hundreds of other civilians have been injured, several very seriously. Although the vast majority of these rockets have landed on empty ground, scores have struck homes, businesses, schools, other public buildings and vehicles in and around towns and villages in southern Israel.
HAMAS'S RATIONAL FOR FIRING ROCKETS INTO ISRAEL
"THEY ARE PRACTICAL AND SYMBOLIC"
P 72, 73
Khaled Mesh’al, the Syria-based leader of Hamas’ politbureau, wrote in an open letter on 6 January 2009:
“The logic of those who demand that we stop our resistance is absurd. They absolve the aggressor and occupier – armed with the deadliest weapons of death and destruction – of responsibility, while blaming the victim, prisoner and occupied. Our modest, home-made rockets are our cry of protest to the world.”(121) A PFLP spokesperson said on 17 January 2009:
“The rockets are both a practical and a symbolic representation of our resistance to the occupier. They are a constant reminder that the occupier is in fact an occupier, and that no matter how they may engage in sieges, massacres, fence us in, deny us the basic human needs of life, we will continue to resist and we will continue to hold fast to our fundamental rights, and we will not allow them to be destroyed. So long as one rocket is launched at the occupier, our people, our resistance and our cause is alive… The [Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades] has consistently launched multiple rockets on a daily basis…”122