Scenes of grief and desolation in Rafah, 18 May 2004 (17th May in US).
The Electronic Intifada urges all concerned people to contact international and government officials to demand immediate action to halt Israel’s assault on Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. Israel is in the process of committing major war crimes with total impunity.
Original AP caption: The bodies of Palestinian Ahmed Mughayer, 13, and his sister Asma, 16, right, are wrapped in blankets after being brought from the Talesultan area of the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, May 18, 2004. Both were on the roof of their three-story apartment building when they were hit by army fire, said their older brother, Ali. The shots were fired from an Israeli army position on the sixth floor of the neighboring building, he said. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
ISRAELI WAR CRIMES
The United States continues to give a green light to Israeli war crimes. In recent days, Secretary of State Colin Powell half-heartedly criticized the destruction in Gaza. Today, however, as the atrocities continue in Rafah, President Bush declared in a major address to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC that Israel “has every right to defend itself from terror.” Bush made no criticism whatsoever of the Israeli attack on Rafah.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has said that, “The extensive destruction of civilian property, carried out wantonly and unlawfully, and without military necessity constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention as defined in article 147, and a war crime as clarified in article 85.5 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.”
Amnesty International reported today that: “More than 3,000 homes, vast areas of agricultural land and hundreds of other properties have been destroyed by the Israeli army and security forces in Israel and the Occupied Territories in the past three and a half years,” and said that “some of these acts of destruction amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are war crimes.”
INTERNATIONAL WORDS, NOT ACTION
Governments and international organizations have strongly criticized the Israeli action:
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the Israeli attack on Rafah and stated that Israel, “as the occupying power … must cease such acts of collective punishment immediately, and … refrain from further grave violations of international law.”
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that, “what is taking place now in Gaza is something that we have to condemn and to condemn very strongly.”
However none of these statements has had any impact on Israel, because Israel knows that it can act with impunity and has the full backing of the US government. For years, Israel has been able to flout UN Security Council Resolutions and the Geneva Conventions without any real consequences. The result is escalating, unrestrained violence.
Israel is now even brazen enough to announce its war crimes in advance, knowing full well that international action will be limited to a few statements. On 18 May 2004, Ha’aretz reported Israeli army radio as quoting Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman as saying that there was a “very, very strong chance” that the United States would veto any such condemnation of Israel’s actions in Gaza.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in particular, has failed to exercise his responsibility. Under the UN Charter, the Secretary-General has a duty to inform the Security Council of grave breaches of international law and security. Annan has restricted himself to statements “urging” Israel not to violate international law. As Israel has repeatedly ignored his pleas, he has effectively done nothing.
The EU, as Israel’s largest trading partner, has enormous influence with Israel, but has so far been reluctant to use it.
We believe that a large mobilization of international public opinion on behalf of the people of Rafah demanding that those with power and responsibility act to end these war crimes can make a difference.
Key points should include:
We urge you to act now and contact the following US, UN, UK, and European Union representatives (Readers outside the United States are encouraged to contact their national political representatives. Contact information can typically be tracked down quickly by searching with Google.com):
United States Representatives
European Union Representatives