During its 22 day offensive, Israeli forces killed more than 1400 Palestinians, including at least 288 children, and injured over 5300, of which at least 1606 were children. The majority of those killed were civilians. Two weeks after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire, a National Lawyers Guild Delegation of seven attorneys and one law student traveled to Gaza to investigate the circumstances that led to the massive Palestinian casualties, and to determine what, if any, violations of international law occurred, and whether U.S. domestic law was violated as a consequence.
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The Delegation found more than ample evidence to establish a prima facie case that the Israeli military committed significant violations of international law in Gaza from December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009. Specifically, the delegation found that Israeli forces appear to have violated:
• the principle of distinction by engaging in the willful killing of a number of Palestinian civilians;
• the principle of proportionality by carrying out a number of attacks where the “collateral damage” that resulted was vastly disproportionate to the direct military advantage that could have been achieved by Israel;
• customary international law on the use of weapons by misusing certain weapons, including the use of indiscriminate weaponry in residential and other heavily-populated civilian areas;
• the obligation to provide medical care to the wounded by deliberately denying or
delaying access to medical care for wounded people; and
• the prohibition on attacking medical facilities and personnel. As such, the National Lawyer Guild Delegation to Gaza calls for: (gr3)1. The United Nations to establish a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive and independent investigation into the gross violations of international humanitarian law reported herein and to recommend the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI) as a ‘subsidiary organ’ under U.N. Charter Article 22 to prosecute Israel’s top generals and other military and political leaders for gross violations of the law;
2. The United States envoy to the United Nations and, more generally, the Obama Administration, under the obligations of the Geneva Conventions and general principles of humanitarian law, to support a full United Nations investigation of Israel’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead;
3. The Directorate of the Defense Trade Controls, in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs of the Department of State to conduct a thorough investigation of defense articles supplied by this government to Israel in order to determine Israel’s compliance with conditions imposed by the
United States for receipt of military assistance pursuant to Section 2778 of the Arms Export Control Act: End-Use Monitoring of Defense Articles and Defense Services;
(gr4)4. The United States Congress to withhold any further military assistance to Israel until the investigatory findings are reviewed and the Department of State makes a determination as to how to proceed with the sale of defense
articles and services to Israel;
5. The United States Congress to establish an independent commission to monitor Israel’s compliance with the AECA and FAA;
6. United States citizens and residents to meet with their Senators and Representatives in Congress to share the NLG’s investigatory findings and to encourage them to call on the Department of State to conduct an Arms
Export Control Act investigation.