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UN expert says Israel's attacks on Gaza could constitute a 'war crime'

Latest update : 2009-03-24

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights for the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, said in a report Monday that there was enough "preliminary evidence" to conclude that Israel's operations in Gaza constituted a "war crime".

AFP - The United Nations expert on the Palestinian territories said in a report Monday that there was "reason" to conclude that Israel's military operations in the Gaza Strip was a war crime.
  
Richard Falk said in order to determine if the war was legal, it was necessary to assess if the Israeli forces could differentiate between civilian and military targets in Gaza.
  
"If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," Falk wrote in the report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council.
  
"On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion," he added, pointing out that attacks were targeted at densely populated areas.
  
Furthermore, as the borders of Gaza were sealed, civilians were unable to flee from the attacks, Falk noted.
  
Falk had focused his report on the legal issues arising from the war, as he had been unable to enter Gaza to assess the human rights situation on the ground.
  
He attempted a mission in December, but was detained by the Israelis in a facility close to Ben Gurion airport before being expelled a day after.
  
"Such a refusal to cooperate with a United Nations representative, not to mention the somewhat humiliating treatement accorded has set an unfortunate precedent with respect to the treatement of a representative of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and more generally of the United Nations itself," Falk wrote.
  
Falk has been highly critical of Israel's policies against the Palestinians, saying early December that they amounted to a crime against humanity.
  
When expelling him, Israel's Foreign Ministry accused Falk of "legitimising Hamas terrorism."
  
"Israel has made clear that Mr. Falk was not invited, nor would be welcome in Israel, under his capacity as special rapporteur" for human rights, the foreign ministry said then.
  
Falk in January also charged that Israel's military operations in Gaza raised the "spectre of systematic war crimes" and needed to be investigated.
  
Israel in late December launched a three-week offensive in Gaza which left over 1,300 Palestinians dead and countless of homes destroyed.

Date created : 2009-03-23

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