Tag Archives: Gaza Strip

Breaking down the UNHRC report on 2014 Gaza war

 

· Command responsibility: All four IDF reports of alleged war crimes investigations have assumed that general targeting policy was legal and only individual soldiers could have gone beyond the rules of engagement. The report wants investigations of top military and civilian leaders who set targeting policy. This is a major fault line, but Israel has support from a range of foreign military and top academics for its targeting policy.

· Comptroller got more relevant: The UNHRC probe‘s chairperson Mary McGowan-Davis is following the State Comptroller report on war policy-making to see if it addresses her concerns, not addressed in the IDF reports. That report just got a lot more important.

· Turkel Commission: The report and McGowan-Davis hone in on the lack of implementing ‘Recommendation 2’ of Israel’s quasi-government February 2013 Turkel Report on whether its self-investigating satisfies international law. She totally skipped over its conclusion that Israel’s apparatus meets international law requirements and zoned in on only which of the 18 recommendations made by Turkel to improve investigations have not been implemented. The state has been very slow with addressing some of these and this could be an issue since it was an Israel-sponsored group.

· Gaza blockade: The report repeatedly takes Israel to task for the blockade, though the previous UN Palmer Report said that the blockade did not violate international law. Serious blame for lack of Gaza reconstruction was placed on Israel due to the blockade, seemingly ignoring the blame that many UN officials have placed on donor countries for failing to send most of the funds they promised for reconstruction.

· Accepting ICC jurisdiction: The report demands Israel accede to the Rome Statute and accept International Criminal Court jurisdiction. A non-starter from the Israeli point of view.

· Explosive weapons: Judge McGowan-Davis makes a huge point of attacking Israel for use of explosive weapons in those parts of Gaza which are densely populated. But most of Gaza is densely populated and the IDF has said that Hamas intentionally and systematically abused civilian locations to fire rockets, hide weapons and undertake other attacks. The report does not seem to consider how else the IDF could fight Hamas under these circumstances.

· Defining military objectives – targeting residential buildings: There is a debate about whether the IDF had an overly wide definition of military objective, especially in targeting residential buildings. The report then recognizes that Hamas fought from civilian areas which can convert those areas into military objectives, but perplexingly seemed to say that Hamas’ actions do not modify the legal analysis or obligations for the IDF.

· Warnings: The report unequivocally declares “roof-knocking,” firing a missile without a warhead onto a roof so it will not explode, but will make a loud bang and scare civilians into evacuating before attacking with an armed missile, as ineffective. The Goldstone Report made the same declaration, but whereas there are many international critics of the policy, many foreign military figures and top military law academics have declared the tactic effective, or even cutting-edge and worthy of emulation.

· Israeli investigations of alleged war crimes: McGowan-Davis is highly specific demanding not only investigations, but essentially also indictments, convictions and even sufficiently serious punishments.

· Palestinian investigations of alleged war crimes: McGowan-Davis only demands that there be criminal proceedings with nowhere near the same specificity. This could be a more lenient hand and double-standard, or, in light of her harsh condemnation of Gazan indiscriminate rocket fire, it could be she realizes they have done nothing and nuanced demands only have a chance with Israel.

· IDF release of classified information: The IDF has been complimented by supporters for releasing unprecedented information in its four reports about the military situation on the ground. The report said that too little information has been released and while realizing the IDF may jeopardize its intelligence sources, essentially demands the IDF release far more information. This is a major fault line for judging borderline cases where civilians were killed.

· Proportionality: McGowan-Davis seems to imply that IDF was obligated to completely change targeting policy, including possibly refraining from using missiles and artillery mid-war, after initial casualty reports. This is another major fault line and whereas, she cites one case from an international war crimes tribunal supporting that idea, but there are counter-cases.

· Was Israel’s report of last week referenced: It was unclear whether the report would take into account Israel’s major report released last week. The report did add references to that report, though the reports disagree on a myriad of issues.

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Islamic State Supporters claims mortar attack on Hamas in Gaza

Illustrative photo of men holding up an Islamic State flag on July 18, 2014. (AFP/Tauseef Mustafa)

Illustrative photo of men holding up an Islamic State flag on July 18, 2014. (AFP/Tauseef Mustafa)

GAZA CITY – A jihadist group that recently emerged in the Gaza Strip claimed Friday a mortar attack on a base belonging to the Islamist Hamas movement in charge of the blockaded territory.

In a statement posted online, the group calling itself Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem said it fired mortar rounds at a base used by Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

Witnesses told AFP they heard explosions close to Khan Yunis.

A bomb attack this week targeted Hamas’s security headquarters in Gaza after radical Islamists issued a threatening message calling for the release of prisoners.

Hamas security forces arrested a Salafist leader last month, alleging that he was a supporter of the Islamic State group (IS) that holds vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

Gazan jihadists have pledged allegiance to IS in the past, but there has been no confirmation from the group itself that it has a presence in the coastal enclave.

Hamas Prepares Its Next War on Israel

Hamas  3

By Tom Wilson

Since last summer’s war, things have been quiet along the Israel-Gaza border. But the calm is deceiving. No sooner had the fighting halted than Hamas was once again making preparations for its next war with Israel. Those efforts are now well underway, and while the international community’s attention is elsewhere, Hamas is busily rearming, retraining, and rebuilding the system of offensive terror tunnels from which it has launched previous attacks on Israeli border communities. Indeed, in recent days, Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, have boasted that their bases close to the Israeli border have been repaired and are ready to confront Israel’s military. So when hostilities break out once again, no one should claim to be surprised.

Preparing for the next round

With the smuggling of weapons into Gaza having been significantly disrupted, Hamas is increasingly manufacturing rockets in Gaza itself. These aren’t as powerful as some of the Iranian-supplied missiles that they have acquired in the past, but Islamist groups in Gaza have been test-firing rockets into the Mediterranean Sea, and some of these now have formidable range. At the same time, Hamas is believed to be once again diverting concrete designated for rebuilding people’s homes and using it to build tunnels and bunkers. Similarly, while the international community picks up the bill for Gaza’s humanitarian needs, Hamas has apparently found the resources to open some 18 new terror training camps since the war’s end.

Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, there have been three major rounds of fighting between Israel and the Strip’s militants. Each time these hostilities erupt, the world reacts with surprise. Observers ponder how on earth this could have happened again, and they usually strike upon the same answer: that Hamas’s latest outburst of rocket fire must be some kind of protest at the border restrictions Israel currently places on Gaza.

Actually, it is true that there is a crushing blockade on Gaza right now. But that blockade isn’t being imposed by Israel – it is kept in place by Egypt. For weeks on end, Egypt has kept its Rafah crossing with Gaza for the most part firmly shut. This is because the current Egyptian government sees a Hamas-controlled Gaza on its border as a major security threat. Indeed, Egypt takes the threat from Hamas’s support of terrorist groups within its territory so seriously that in recent months Egypt has demolished more than 1,000 Palestinian homes on the Egyptian side of Rafah as part of its attempt to destroy smuggling tunnels there.

While the Egyptian blockade of Gaza has now become almost total, Israel is easing restrictions on the flow of goods and people across its Gaza border, recently relaxing regulations on the exports coming from Gaza and also upping the amount of building material being allowed into the Strip. Although Israelis remain understandably cautious about the risk of materials getting into Gaza that could be used for military purposes, it is now the case that almost everything (and everyone) that moves in and out of Gaza does so via the Israeli border crossings.

Digging for a motive

Frankly, if it was really objections to the limitations on Gaza’s imports and exports that were causing Hamas to fire rockets and dig terror tunnels, then they would be targeting Egyptian territory, not Israeli. While the border restrictions clearly increase hardships for Gaza’s civilian population, this is quite evidently of no concern to Hamas. As we have seen with Hamas’s notorious use of human shields, Gaza’s militant rulers know perfectly well that the more the people of Gaza are seen to suffer, the more Hamas can grab the world’s attention for its cause.

That cause is not the betterment of the Palestinian people, but rather to wage war on the Jewish state until it is eradicated. Such an objective is made clear in Hamas’s racist and annihilationist founding documents, and there is simply no evidence to suggest that the organization has moderated since those documents were written.

Wishful thinking on the part of Westerners will do nothing to change this reality, and yet as was evident during the war this summer, there’s a great deal of attempted whitewashing that still goes on about Hamas. Most popular has been the claim that Hamas is the democratically elected government of Gaza. Yes, Hamas did win the Palestinian legislative election all the way back in 2006, but having murdered much of the opposition in Gaza, and having never held any subsequent elections, no one genuinely concerned with democracy could use that word in defense of Hamas.

Then there have been claims that the West should engage with Hamas’s political wing, just not its military one. But to believe this could work is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of Hamas. In reality, the various wings of Hamas are indivisible. Hamas’s political leadership conceive of themselves as committed Jihadists and issue the orders for the acts of terror that the military wing carries out.

More recently there has been the suggestion that Hamas has moderated and would be prepared to make a temporary truce (a Hudna) with Israel in return for certain concessions. The problem is that the concessions Hamas demands are inevitably aimed at allowing it to rearm more effectively. The truces offered are never about moving toward a sustainable coexistence, but rather about allowing Hamas to live on to fight another day, and to fight all the more fiercely once the truce is ended.

This was where many Western leaders went wrong during previous cease-fire negotiations. The emphasis was always on which of Hamas’s demands Israel should be persuaded to grant so as to end the fighting as quickly as possible. Interestingly, Egyptian mediators on the other hand understood that Hamas must be granted no rewards for initiating violence, and so last summer Cairo didn’t appear to be in any hurry to broker an agreement.

Making concessions to Hamas not only greatly undermines Palestinian moderates, it also incentivizes Hamas to provoke further conflict in the future. Those incentives have now been heard loudly and clearly in Gaza, where Hamas is hard at work assembling the means to fight a fourth war against Israel. To avoid that happening, and for the sake of civilians on all sides, the international community must put in place a comprehensive plan for disarming Hamas. Instead, most world leaders appear to be looking the other way.

(AP photo)

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