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Family of children killed in 2014 war on Gaza submits complaint to War Crimes Unit in France

June 30, 2016 10:06 P.M. (Updated: July 1, 2016 11:58 A.M.)
Palestinians flee their destroyed neighborhood on a horse and cart in Gaza's Beit Hanoun, on Aug. 18, 2014 (AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A family who lost three children during Israel’s devastating 2014 offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip has submitted a complaint against a French weapons manufacturing company in a French court for being complicit in a war crime, according to a statement released Thursday by a French photojournalist who has worked closely with the family.

Journalist Anne Paq, from the collective ActiveStills, said in the statement that the Shuheibar family -- whose three children were killed and two more severely wounded in an Israeli missile attack after venturing to their roof in the besieged Gaza Strip to feed pigeons in July 2014 -- collected remnants of the missile after it had struck the home.

The family found that the missile piece had “France” written on it.

According to the statement, after consulting with experts, the family found that the missile component was produced by Eurofarad, a French company which was later adopted by Exxelia Technologies.

French-based human rights organization ACAT coordinated with a local partner from Gaza to collect evidence and testimonies from the families and witnesses, the statement said.

Together with the French legal team Ancile-avocats, the group submitted a claim to the Special War Crimes Unit in France detailing the company’s complicity in “war crimes and involuntary manslaughter.”

The statement quoted the father, Wissam Shuheibar, about the findings during an interview with Paq: “I find it strange,” the father said, “How can the French government approve of companies which produce rockets and weapons sent to be used in war on our children?”

Paq told Ma’an that the case was “very significant,” adding that it raised concerns over the arms trade between Israel and France.

“The European states agreed not to sell weapons to countries if there is a reason to believe it will help that state violate international law and commit human rights violations. The previous two Israeli offensives on Gaza have clearly shown that Israel is a country that does not respect International humanitarian law, and its war crimes were widely documented,” Paq said.

“The company and the government cannot claim to have been unaware of Israel's record and possibility that selling weapons to them can mean complicity in war crimes,” she stated.

Paq added that the case has underscored the reality of families in the besieged Gaza Strip, many of whom have lost family members during Israel’s 2014 offensive, who have yet to receive any form of justice for the crimes committed against them.

“The main perpetrator of the crimes committed against the Shuheibar children is the state of Israel. Sadly, with the record of Israel failing to bring criminal charges against those responsible for attacking civilians, the family has very little chances of seeing the main perpetrators brought to justice.”

In 2005, a similar case was attempted targeting the US-based Caterpillar company after a Caterpillar-produced bulldozer crushed Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American activist, to death in 2003 as she attempted to prevent Israeli forces from demolishing a Palestinian family’s home while the family was inside.

At the time, the Center for Constitutional Rights charged Caterpillar in US courts with “aiding and abetting war crimes and other serious human rights violations on the grounds that the company provided bulldozers to the Israeli military knowing they would be used unlawfully to demolish homes and endanger civilians in Palestine.”

However, the case was dismissed following a ruling that the incidents fell outside of the court’s jurisdiction.

The Shuheibar family are one of several Palestinian families from the besieged enclave telling their stories in the interactive web documentary “Obliterated Families” directed by Paq and journalist Ala Qandil, set to be released on July 8. The project explores the personal elements of Palestinians whose lives have been devastated since the Israeli assault two years ago.

The 51-day Israeli offensive, termed “Operation Protective Edge” by Israeli authorities, resulted in the killings of 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of whom were children, according to the United Nations.

At least 142 families have lost three or more members in an attack on a residential building during the Israeli assault, which caused the deaths of 742 civilians, the UN reported in a statement.

The UN has also reported that the besieged Palestinian territory could become "uninhabitable" by 2020, as its 1.8 million residents remain in dire poverty due to the nearly decade-long Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy, while continuing to experience the widespread destruction wrought by three Israeli offenses on the small enclave, and the slow-paced reconstruction efforts aimed at rebuilding homes for the tens of thousands of Palestinians left homeless following the last Israeli assault.
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