Recent authoritative submissions - Better late than never
Extract from report by a group of international high ranking military officers
“Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat. But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances.”
Although the Israel government refused to cooperate with the UN commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza War, a number of concerned citizens and NGO's presented cogent well researched submissions to the Commission whose report is due to be released in advance of the scheduled June 29 debate before the Human Rights Council.
Unfortunately the commission's refusal to open the evidence it has examined to public scrutiny will make it difficult for fair minded people to attempt to evaluate the report when it is published. However, a substantial listing on the internet, of some of the above mentioned informative documents that were submitted to the commission, will enable members of the public as well as journalists and politicians who wish to base their opinions on all available facts, to make informed evaluations.
It will be recalled that Professor William Schabas resigned as chairman of the commission after disclosure that he had performed legal work for the PLO in the past. He was replaced by Judge Mary McGowan Davis as chairperson, the other panelist being Dr. Diène. Since the subject of the inquiry deals with military engagement and since neither of the two members of the UN probe has a military background, the reports (even though late) by acknowledged NON-ISRAELI military experts cannot be ignored.
I refer for example to the preliminary findings of a High Level International Military Group that was granted an unprecedented level of access when it visited Israel in May 2015. It was led by General Klaus Naumann, former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the most senior officer in the Alliance, and 10 other former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers, political leaders and officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia and Colombia.
The mission reported inter alia that Israel was eventually compelled to fight against Hamas and other Gaza extremists in a legitimate war, necessary to defend its citizens against sustained attacks and that after the war started Israel made repeated efforts to terminate the fighting. Hamas rocket attacks deliberately and indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilian population centres including Ben Gurion International Airport, disrupting and threatening international civil air traffic.
"There is no doubt that all of these attacks constitute war crimes.”
The report added that Hamas used materials diverted from humanitarian supplies to construct tunnels in many cases emerging close to civilian communities.
"We can only conclude that these tunnels were designed, at least in part, to attack, kill and abduct Israeli civilians. This again constitutes a war crime.”“Hamas launched attacks against Israel from the heart of its own civilian communities in Gaza and positioned its munitions and military forces there also, including in schools, hospitals and mosques. As well as carefully documented IDF evidence of this, we have viewed international media footage confirming several cases and are aware of senior Hamas officials' own claims to have used human shields. A recent report by the UN Secretary General confirmed that in some cases Hamas even used UN facilities for storing munitions and launching attacks.”“Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat. But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances.”“Our overall findings are that during Operation Protective Edge last summer, in the air, on the ground and at sea, Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard..We saw clear evidence of this from the upper to the lower levels of command. A measure of the seriousness with which Israel took its moral duties and its responsibilities under the laws of armed conflict is that in some cases Israel's scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers' and civilians' lives.”