A year on, Gaza Strip hopes to sue Israel for war crimes

Friday 07/08/2015
Foreign Minister of Palestinian Authority, Riad al-Malki

GAZA CITY - A year after a wide-scale Israeli air, ground and sea offensive on the Gaza Strip, Palestin­ians hope to sue Israel for what they say were war crimes committed during a 51-day on­slaught.
A high-ranking delegation rep­resenting the International Crimi­nal Court (ICC) is to visit Israel and Gaza at the end of July, said Pal­estinian Authority (PA) Foreign Af­fairs Minister Riad al-Malki.
Malki personally delivered on June 25th to the ICC documents alleging Israeli war crimes, hop­ing that the world court would in­vestigate Israeli actions in the war, which began July 7, 2014, and end­ed the following August 26th with an Egyptian-brokered truce.
It is the first time the Palestinians have pushed hard for an interna­tional inquiry on alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza. That underlined their frustration with the force used against them in Israeli wars in 2009, 2012 and 2014 and the 48-year-old Israeli military occupa­tion.
Malki said recently that there was no Israeli approval yet for the ICC’s visit to Gaza, allowing the delega­tion to cross a border from Israel. Alternatively, he said the Palestin­ians may have the ICC delegation go through the Rafah border cross­ing in Egypt.
Israel said “Operation Protective Edge” of 2014 was not meant to harm the civilian population but was aimed at Hamas militants fir­ing missiles on Israeli cities.
However, of the 2,251 Palestin­ian fatalities, 1,462 were civilians, mostly women and children, said Ashraf al-Qedra, a spokesman for Gaza’s Health Ministry. An addi­tional 11,000 people, also mostly civilians, were wounded.
On the Israeli side, 73 people — 67 of them soldiers — were killed.
Fatima Awad, a 22-year-old col­lege student, said she doesn’t ex­pect much from the ICC.
“Hopes for suing those who were behind the crimes are slim,” Awad said, echoing widespread disap­pointment with the international community in the face of Israeli atrocities.
Gaza’s 1.8 million people feel hopeless. They are surrounded by Israeli ground forces to the north and east, naval forces to the west and the Egyptian Army to the south. People are allowed to leave the enclave but few are allowed back in.
When the Palestinians formally joined the ICC on April 1st, hopes were boosted that Israel would have to answer for its violence against Gazans. The Palestinians also hope to sue the Jewish state for “atrocities” committed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since Israel seized the territory in 1967.
Palestinian analysts argue that two issues top the files presented to the ICC for investigation: Jewish settlements built illegally on Pales­tinian lands in the West Bank and the 2014 war on Gaza.
However, the analysts warn that the ICC may be unable to pressure Israel to stop its violations.
Hani al-Masri, director of the pri­vate Badil Centre for Studies in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said Palestinian diplomatic moves have failed to halt Israeli settlement ex­pansion in the West Bank, stop the killing of civilians and, most im­portantly, attain statehood.
“The Israelis are becoming more extreme, which manifested itself in last March’s elections, whereby the hardest-line Israeli cabinet was formed,” Masri said.
“This makes it clear that the like­lihood for reaching a real peace deal is impossible. By the same token, legal battles in courts are often too long and this should be a reason for Palestinians not to raise the bar.”
Abdullah Salman, 65, whose Gaza Shujaeya neighbourhood house was destroyed in the 2014 war, said it was “good to be a member of ICC and the least that could be done is to sue Israel for its crimes”.
“But I don’t think that America or the countries that are friends with Israel would accept imposing sanctions on the state or punishing it and its leaders,” he said.
Fouad Abu Asser’s two-storey home in Tuffah district was also flattened. The 54-year-old man lives with his 15-member family in a temporary prefabricated unit in eastern Gaza City. He said he doubted Israel would be held ac­countable.
“Israel is the enemy of the Pales­tinian people and it is responsible for our tragedies for more than 60 years,” Abu Asser said.
“No one in the world was able to stop Israel from violating our rights, so I don’t think that an in­ternational court decision would prevent Israel from waging another war on Gaza, destroying homes and killing more people.”