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November 01, 2010

New Admissions by Hamas Underscore Flaws in Goldstone Report

In the wake of Israel's military incursion into Gaza on Dec. 27, 2008, the Jewish state was accused of employing indiscriminate violence against the Palestinian civilian population. The alleged evidence rested on the tally of civilian casualties reported by Palestinian non-governmental organizations like the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). PCHR estimated that 84 percent of the 1417 Palestinian dead were civilians and only 236 were combatants. These figures formed the basis of reports condemning Israel by human rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and, most importantly, the United Nations Human Rights Council. In its Gaza Mission Report (The Goldstone Report), the UN council gave credibility to the casualty figures provided by PCHR and other groups, which claimed disproportionately high civilian casualties, while rejecting Israeli figures of at least 709 combatants and 295 confirmed civilian deaths.

On Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad contradicted the PCHR figures. According to Agence France Presse (AFP) and others reporting on the interview, Hamad

told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that between 200 and 300 Hamas fighters were killed during the 22-day onslaught in addition to hundreds of civilians. "They say the people suffered from this war, but is Hamas not part of the people? On the first day of the war Israel targeted police stations and 250 martyrs were killed, from Hamas and other factions," he told the paper. "In addition to them, between 200 and 300 fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas's armed wing) and another 150 security forces were martyred." His numbers roughly match the 709 "terror operatives" the Israeli military said it had killed during the fighting, which included members of the Hamas-run police force that has patrolled Gaza since the group seized power in 2007.

This admission follows the admission by another Hamas operative named Abu Khaled, who acknowledged in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor that most of the Hamas policemen are members of the Hamas military organization as well. The Goldstone Report also sided with PCHR and other groups in describing the policemen killed by Israeli air strikes on the first day as primarily civilians.

What are the next steps?

The UN Human Rights Council should immediately correct the Gaza Mission Report.

Some relevant passages from the Goldstone Report. The numbers at the start of each paragraph are the paragraph numbers in the preliminary report.

30: The data provided by non-governmental sources on the percentage of civilians among those killed are generally consistent and raise very serious concerns about the way Israel conducted the military operations in Gaza.

359. The Israeli armed forces claim that 1,166 Palestinians were killed during the military
operations “according to the data gathered by the Research Department of the Israel Defense
Intelligence”. They allege that “709 of them are identified as Hamas terror operatives”, 295 are
“uninvolved Palestinians”, while the remaining 162 are “men that have not yet been attributed to
any organization”.222 Of the 295 “uninvolved Palestinians”, 89 were children under the age of 16
and 49 women. According to these figures, at least 60 per cent, and possibly as many as three out
of four, of those killed were combatants. The Mission notes, however, that the Israeli
Government has not published a list of victims or other data supporting its assertions, nor has it,
to the Mission’s knowledge, explained the divergence between its statistics and those published
by three Palestinian sources, except insofar as the classification of policemen as combatants is
concerned.223

1885. The Mission recognizes that the principal focus in the aftermath of military
operations will often be on the people who have been killed – more than 1,400 in just three
weeks. This is rightly so. Part of the functions of reports such as this is to attempt, albeit in
a very small way, to restore the dignity of those whose rights have been violated in the most
fundamental way of all – the arbitrary deprivation of life. It is important that the
international community asserts formally and unequivocally that such violence to the most
basic fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals should not be overlooked and should
be condemned.

1886. In this respect, the Mission recognizes that not all deaths constitute violations of
international humanitarian law. The principle of proportionality acknowledges that, under
certain strict conditions, actions resulting in the loss of civilian life may not be unlawful.
What makes the application and assessment of proportionality difficult in respect of many
of the events investigated by the Mission is that deeds by the Israeli armed forces and
words of military and political leaders prior to and during the operations indicate that, as a
whole, they were premised on a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed not at the
enemy but at the “supporting infrastructure.” In practice, this appears to have meant the
civilian population.

1890. The Mission recognizes that some of those killed were combatants directly engaged
in hostilities against Israel, but many were not. The outcome and the modalities of the
operations indicate, in the Mission’s view, that they were only partially aimed at killing
leaders and members of Hamas, al-Qassam Brigades and other armed groups. They were
also to a large degree aimed at destroying or incapacitating civilian property and the
means of subsistence of the civilian population.

1891. It is clear from evidence gathered by the Mission that the destruction of food supply
361. The Mission notes that the statistics from non-governmental sources are generally
consistent. Statistics alleging that fewer than one out of five persons killed in an armed conflict
was a combatant, such as those provided by PCHR and Al Mezan as a result of months of field
research,224 raise very serious concerns about the way Israel conducted the military operations in
Gaza. The counterclaims published by the Government of Israel fall far short of international law
standards.

1923. The Mission also concludes that Israel, by deliberately attacking police stations and
killing large numbers of policemen (99 in the incidents investigated by the Mission) during
the first minutes of the military operations, failed to respect the principle of proportionality
between the military advantage anticipated by killing some policemen who might have
been members of Palestinian armed groups and the loss of civilian life (the majority of
policemen and members of the public present in the police stations or nearby during the
attack). Therefore, these were disproportionate attacks in violation of customary
international law. The Mission finds a violation of the right to life (ICCPR, article 6) of the
policemen killed in these attacks who were not members of Palestinian armed groups.

Posted by SS at November 1, 2010 02:16 PM

Comments

Thank you. I will send this information to Amnesty and see if they will reconsider their position on Goldstone.

Posted by: Bialik at November 11, 2010 02:01 PM

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