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Goldstone in context

Jan. 3, 2010 3:08 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 19, 2011 12:23 P.M.)
"A culture of impunity in the region has existed for too long. The lack of accountability ... has reached a crisis point; ... Time and again, experience has taught us that overlooking justice only leads to increased conflict ..."

On the first annual commemoration of Israel's Operation Cast Lead, Ma'an presents a three-week series recounting the findings of South African jurist Richard Goldstone's UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, updated daily and in context.

Day 1: 'Just the beginning of an all-out war'

During the first four minutes of Israel's devastating winter assault on the Gaza Strip, launched 27 December 2008, over 60 warplanes struck 50 targets, ultimately killing and injuring hundreds by midnight. Gaza's World Health Organization chief recounts the day's events from a medical perspective, and as a father.

Day 2: 'I will pay the price for this testimony when I return'

Israeli forces shot dead three unarmed protesters on 28 December 2008, day two of Operation Cast Lead. "There was a significant increase in the use of force by Israeli security forces during demonstrations in the West Bank after the start of the Israeli operations in Gaza," according to Goldstone's final report.

Day 3: 'Entitled to justice in accordance with international law'

Grad rockets killed two Israelis near the Gaza border on 29 December 2008. Goldstone offers a damning indictment of Palestinian projectile fire: "... they constitute a deliberate attack against a civilian population. These acts would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity."

Day 4: 'Israel must allow journalists access to this important story'

On 30 December 2008, hundreds of locally-based journalists petitioned the Israeli High Court over the army's press ban. "[T]he world's media is unable to accurately report on events inside Gaza at this critical time ... Despite our protests, the Israeli authorities have refused to let journalists in ..."

Day 5: PLC bombing 'carried out unlawfully and wantonly'

Israel's army leveled the Palestinian parliament building on 31 December 2008, an act the Goldstone report rejects as unlawful, as attacks "that are not directed against military objectives are violations of the laws of war, no matter how promising the attacker considers them from a strategic or political point of view."

Day 6: Gaza police - legitimate targets or targeted civilians?

Among 70 targets hit on 1 January 2009 was a police command center in Rafah. No one was hurt in that airstrike, but 248 members of the Gaza police were killed during Israel's overall assault. By late January 2009, more than one out of every six casualties was a member of the de facto government's security forces.

Day 7: 'A gradually worsening situation for freedom of the press'

As Israel's operation entered its seventh day on 2 January 2009, an AP photographer covering a march in support of the people of Gaza was assaulted by members of the Palestinian Military Intelligence, an attack similar to other incidents in which PA forces violently repressed dissent across the West Bank.

Day 8: 'I swear to you that I saw this with my own eyes'

At least 15 people were killed and around 40 injured – many seriously – when Israeli forces struck the Al-Maqadmah Mosque northwest of Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp with a missile on 3 January 2009. "We screamed and we called for God. We said, 'Please help us. Help us God. Help us God. Help us God. ...'"

Day 9: Israeli forces 'deliberately let him bleed to death'

On 4 January 2009, Iyad Samouni, already handcuffed, was shot in the leg in view of his father, wife and children, who were all prevented from coming to his aid despite emotional pleas. "Israeli armed forces ensured that he did not receive lifesaving medical help. They deliberately let him bleed to death."

Day 10: 'When I left the house there were 22 people dead'

Goldstone investigated 11 incidents in which serious allegations of direct attacks with lethal outcome were made against civilians, the most deadly of which occurred on 5 January 2009. "There appears to have been no justifiable military objective pursued in any of them," his report concluded.

Day 11: Did Israel whitewash a massacre in Jabaliya?

Israeli forces fired at least four mortar bombs near an UNRWA elementary school on 6 January 2009, killing as many as 43 innocent civilians. Finding evidence of weapons misuse, Goldstone's report also alleges a coordinated but poorly executed cover-up on the part of the Israeli military and its defenders.

Day 12: The shooting of Amal, Souad, Samar and Hajja

Israeli forces declared a three-hour humanitarian ceasefire on 7 January 2009. "So really I was amazed at how could a soldier be firing at my daughter?" a father would later recount to Goldstone and his team. "They [started] shooting at the children with no reason, with no explanation, no pretext."

Day 13: 'Hospitals may in no circumstances be the object of attack'

On 8 January 2009, Israeli artillery shells struck the apartment of Dr Jaber Abu An-Naja. His wife was cut in half by the explosion and his son-in-law was thrown from the balcony on to the street below. The shelling was just one of dozens nearby that destroyed parts of the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City.

Day 14: Flour mill targeted 'for the purpose of denying sustenance'

When the Al-Bader flour mill was destroyed on 9 January, the strike happened without prior warning, raising questions about the efficacy or seriousness of the warnings system used by Israeli forces during their operation, which allegedly included "attacks on the foundations of civilian life in Gaza."

Day 15: 'I am a Palestinian, a neighbor; I am being forced to come into this house'

To justify the death toll in its winter assault on Gaza, Israel's military has alleged that Hamas used the local population as human shields, a war crime. Goldstone's inquiry examined cases, including one on 10 January 2009, in which Palestinian civilians were indeed used as human shields – by Israeli forces.

Day 16: Shalit captors 'should release him on humanitarian grounds'

Egyptian media reported on 11 January 2009 that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was wounded in an airstrike, leading to a flurry of outbursts by Hamas and Israel. The Goldstone report concluded that Shalit meets the requirements for prisoner-of-war status, and is thus entitled to external communication and other rights.

Day 17: A week of 'abandonment, desperation, suffocation, isolation'

On 12 January, nine Palestinians were blindfolded, handcuffed and transported to the Erez border, where they "were told to run into Gaza, to look straight ahead and not to look back." Freed detainees recount an experience "of abandonment, desperation, suffocation and isolation."

Day 18: Objectives and strategy of Israel's operations in Gaza

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said on 13 January 2009: "We have proven to Hamas that we have changed the equation. Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond. It is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing."
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