Israel forms war crime defence team

Names of soldiers who took part in Gaza war withheld amid potential war crime charges.

    If Israel's use of white phosphorus is proven, it could form the basis of war crimes charges [AFP]
     

    Ali Kashan, the Palestinian justice minister, met Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, in The Hague on Thursday to discuss "allegations of crimes", a special adviser to the prosecutor said.

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    Gaza medics put the death toll in Gaza at 1,330 with at least 5,450 wounded following Israel's attacks. About 65 per cent of the dead were civilians, including 400 children and 100 women.

    Eight Israeli human rights groups have called on the Israeli government to investigate allegations of war crimes given the scale of the casualties, describing the number of dead women and children as "terrifying".

    Richard Falk, a UN human rights expert, said on Thursday that there was evidence that Israel violated humanitarian law by conducting the offensive "against an essentially defenseless population".

    Accountability calls

    A total of 53 installations used by the United Nations Relief and Works agency (UNRWA) were damaged or destroyed during Israel's Gaza campaign, including 37 schools - six of which are being used as emergency shelters - six health centres, and two warehouses.

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, demanded on Tuesday that those responsible for bombing UN buildings in the Palestinian territory be made accountable and accused Israel of using excessive force.

    Friedman will lead a ministerial team to co-ordinate a legal defence for the military [AFP]

    Israel insists its troops did their best to limit civilian casualties in heavily-populated areas, accusing Hamas fighters of hiding behind Palestinian civilians and firing at Israelis from civilian and UN buildings.

    Pictures released by the UN showed what appeared to be flame-generating munitions, thought to be white phosphorus "wedges", falling into a UN compound in Gaza where hundreds of people were sheltering.

    If the munitions are proved to be white phosphorus - which causes extreme burns when in contact with the skin - Israel's use of the chemical could form the basis of war crimes charges.

    International law forbids white phosphorus use against military targets within areas where civilians are concentrated, except when the targets are clearly separated and "all feasible precautions" are taken to avoid casualties among non-combatants.

    The Israeli military is also suspected of using Dense Inert Metal Explosive (Dime) weapons in urban areas, causing horrific abdominal and leg injuries.

    When detonated, a Dime device expels a blade of charged tungsten dust that burns and destroys everything within a four-metre radius.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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