Winograd to address 'war crimes'

Gal-On asked committee to examine reports by IDF soldiers, rights groups.

gal-on 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
gal-on 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Retired Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court judge Eliahu Winograd, head of the committee investigating the government's handling of the Second Lebanon War, informed Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On in a letter released Tuesday that the panel will also address the war from the aspect of international law. Winograd made the statement in response to a letter from Gal-On on July 13 in which she asked him to investigate possible violations of international law by Israel during the war. In addition to probing the war in terms of internal government procedures and decision-making, wrote Gal-On, "it would be the right thing for the committee to investigate the conduct of the political and military echelon in accordance with international law. This should be done in view of the harsh claims raised by Israeli human rights organizations regarding allegations that Israel committed war crimes and caused harm to the Lebanese civilian population." Gal-On added that the parents of soldiers who fought in the war had also asked the Winograd Committee to investigate these allegations, a claim confirmed by Winograd. "Indeed, we have received requests to deal with the events of the war in accordance with international law. The final report will address this subject," he said. But the wording of Winograd's two-sentence letter was vague and did not make clear what issues the committee would deal with or in what depth. Although Gal-On was referring to Israeli human rights organizations that were critical of Israel's conduct, international NGOs have issued several condemnations of Israeli behavior during the war. One of them is Human Rights Watch, which issued several reports criticizing the conduct of both Israel and Hizbullah during the campaign. On July 12, the first anniversary of the war's start, Human Rights Watch complained that "both sides in this conflict violated the laws of war, but a full year later no one has been held accountable." The organization said that beginning in September, it planned to release "a series of three reports providing the most extensive documentation to date of these violations, based on lengthy post-war field investigations in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. So far, the Israeli and Lebanese investigations have failed, so the international community needs to step in." During the war, Human Rights Watch issued several reports criticizing both sides. It accused Israel of warning civilians in southern Lebanon to flee before it bombed an area, then bombing as if they had fled when, in fact, they hadn't. It also accused Israel of relentlessly bombing civilian areas in southern Lebanon, including 7,000 bomb and missile strikes and artillery and naval bombardments that killed 1,125 people, the vast majority civilians, and wounding almost 4,500. It also criticized Israel for firing cluster munitions that contained four million submunitions, including an estimated one million that did not explode on impact and continue to pose a threat. Human Rights Watch charged that during the war, Hizbullah fired 4,000 rockets at civilian targets, killing at least 39 civilians and wounding hundreds more. Hizbullah also fired Chinese-manufactured cluster rockets containing 39 submunitions of steel spheres. They fired at least 118 such rockets, killing one civilian and wounding 12, according to the organization.