'Israeli attack on Gaza is not self-defence, it's a war crime
[RAMALLAH, 14 January 2009] – On 11 January, over 30 leading international lawyers and academics wrote an open letter to the Sunday Times expressing the opinion that Israel’s attack on Gaza is an illegal act of aggression, not justified by self-defence.
The lawyers and academics express the opinion that ‘the rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.
The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.’
Whilst condemning the firing of rockets into southern Israel as a war crime, the lawyers and academics conclude that ‘Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.’
It should be recalled that as the occupying power in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, Israel owes specific duties and obligations towards the Palestinian people under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The so called ‘disengagement’ from Gaza in 2005 does not alter this position as Israel continues to control border crossings, air space and the territorial sea of Gaza, and is effectively still the occupying power. Israel has been in breach of many of its duties and obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention for the last 41 years.
The full text of the letter can be read here.
As of 14 January 2009, reports indicate that around 910 Palestinians are now dead and more than 4,250 injured since the start of Operation Cast Lead 18 days ago. Reports indicate that as many as 292 children have now been killed.
Please consider sending an urgent appeal to your elected representatives demanding:
An immediate end to Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip and a ceasefire by all parties.
The immediate provision of urgent humanitarian and medical assistance to the Gaza Strip.
The immediate lifting of Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip to allow the free flow of goods and services in and out of the territory.
An independent investigation be carried out into each incident involving civilian fatalities during operation “Cast Lead”, and those found responsible for ordering, planning and carrying into effect war crimes, be promptly prosecuted in accordance with international law.
An immediate freeze of the EU-Israel upgrade process. Any future Action Plan for the upgrade must include clear and measurable human rights benchmarks for which Israel must be held accountable.
For further information please go to DCI-Palestine Urgent Appeal and our Gaza Under Attack webpage.'