Saturday, December 26, 2009
One year on, Gaza war violations still unpunished: HRW
JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch on Saturday accused Israel and Hamas of failing to take punitive action against members of their own forces accused of atrocities during Israel's war on Gaza a year ago.
The New York-based rights group also criticised the Israeli blockade which "created massive humanitarian need and prevented the reconstruction of schools and homes" in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.
"Both Israel and Hamas have failed to punish those responsible for serious violations during the fighting," Fred Abrahams, HRW senior emergencies researcher, said in a statement on the eve of the first anniversary of the Gaza war.
"Some rocket attacks continue and the Israeli blockade of Gaza has prevented basic reconstruction. The only things getting built in Gaza are desperation and despair," he was quoted as saying.
Human Rights Watch accused Israel of "drone-launched missile attacks that killed 29 civilians, the killing of 11 civilians holding white flags, and the use of white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas."
It said the Jewish state's forces also destroyed many unjustified targets including farms, factories and much of Gaza's water and sanitation network, with most of it still unrepaired.
The Islamist movement Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups were accused of firing hundreds of rockets into populated areas of Israel, and using the 22-day war as an excuse to kill and torture political rivals.
"Israel has so far punished only one soldier, a sergeant, for wartime abuse, sentencing him to seven and a half months in prison for stealing a credit card," said the statement.
"Human Rights Watch does not know of any investigations by Hamas authorities in Gaza into laws-of-war or human rights violations during the fighting."
Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the conflict, which was brought to an end by a January 18 ceasefire.
Last week 16 rights groups including Amnesty International and Oxfam issued a joint statement saying the world has "betrayed" civilians in the Gaza Strip by failing to end the Israeli blockade of the enclave.
Israel and Egypt have allowed only vital humanitarian aid into the territory since Hamas seized power there in June 2007.