Report details 'indiscriminate, deliberate attacks against civilians'

Report details indiscri

The report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict headed by Richard Goldstone accused Israel of indiscriminate and deliberate attacks against Palestinian civilians during Operation Cast Lead. It also accused Israel of deliberately destroying infrastructure such as food production that sustained basic elements of life in Gaza. But more surprisingly, it accused it of repressing dissent, especially among Israeli Arabs, even though it acknowledged that the police did not enter Arab villages during protests and that the Israeli Arabs were able to mount large demonstrations during the war, including one in Sakhnin attended by 150,000 people. One chapter in the report, which was released on Tuesday, presents 11 examples of alleged deliberate and unjustified attacks against Palestinian civilians. At least two of the incidents are well-known and have been mentioned by several human rights groups in previous investigations. Others appear to be raised for the first time. The best known of the incidents involved as many as 30 members of the Samouni clan who died in separate incidents on January 4 and 5, 2009. According to the UN committee, early on the morning of January 4, soldiers broke into the home of Ateya al-Soumani. When he held out his hands containing an identity card and an Israeli driver's license, soldiers allegedly shot and killed him. Then they supposedly opened fire inside the room, killing his son Ahmad. There were 20 people in the room at the time, according to the report. Soon afterwards, soldiers entered another house and ordered those inside to move into the house of Wa'el Samouni. On the following morning, five men went outside to gather firewood. Suddenly a missile exploded, killing at least one of them. Three more missiles hit the house, killing 20 of the occupants and wounding many others. It took three days before Israeli authorities allowed a Red Crescent ambulance to remove the dead and the survivors, the report said. Five Palestinian eyewitnesses testified before the committee, which accepted their statements as being true. This incident is one of the few that have been raised so far where the army has already released the results of its investigation. According to a field examination published on April 22, the army said it had information the house was used to store weapons. The army warned the occupants by phone before the attack to leave the house. It said that the building containing the weapons was actually located a few dozen meters away from the one that was hit. Another incident, which Goldstone referred to in his press conference on Tuesday, was the bombing of the Maqadmah mosque on the outskirts of the Jabalya refugee camp on January 3 that allegedly killed 15 people and wounded 40. The strike took place while more than 300 worshipers inside. According to the report, the missile exploded directly in front of the mosque, caused a powerful explosion and released a shower of small metal cubes, many of which were later found deeply embedded in the walls of the mosque's interior. The committee said that Israel issued a response saying - at one and the same time - that the mosque was not hit and that the victims who were killed were Hamas operatives. According to the committee, the response was included in an army report titled "Conclusions of Investigations into Central Claims and Issues in Operation Cast Lead," published on April 22. Asked late Wednesday evening to confirm whether the army had indeed given such a response, the IDF Spokesman's Office said the reply would not be available by press time. In the chapter of the document accusing Israel of suppressing dissent, the Goldstone committee referred to the Negev as the Naqba. It said the government took a hard line with Israeli Arab demonstrators - whom it referred to as Palestinian Israelis - who constituted most of the protesters against the fighting. According to the report, "sources of criticism of actions by Israel during and following the military operations of December 2008-January 2009 from inside Israel were subjected to attempted or actual repression, and that the rights of freedom of association and expression for individuals and groups had been violated."