[News] Palestine - PCHR Contests Distortion of Gaza Strip Death Toll

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 2 11:55:23 EDT 2009

PCHR Contests Distortion of Gaza Strip Death Toll

01.04.09 - 21:06

Gaza City / PCHR - The Palestinian Centre for 
Human Rights (PCHR) contest figures presented by 
the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Authority 
for the Gaza Strip which claim that 1,370 
Palestinians were killed in the course of 
Israel’s 23 day military offensive on the Gaza 
Strip. The Israeli Coordination Authority claim 
that 600 of the dead were combatants, and that 
309 civilians were killed in the attack. They 
have yet to classify 320 Palestinians.

PCHR regards this as a deliberately manipulative 
attempt to distort the reality of the offensive, 
and to disguise Israel’s illegal actions. 
Following extensive investigation and 
cross-checking, PCHR have determined that a total 
of 1,417 Palestinians died in the offensive. 926 
were civilians, including 313 children and 116 
women. 255 were non-combatant police officers. 
236 combatants were killed, representing 16.7% of the total deaths.

PCHR’s findings are available in Arabic at 
<http://www.pchrgaza.org/>www.pchrgaza.org. An 
English version is currently in translation.

PCHR consider the IOF’s classification of police 
officers as combatants illegal: this 
classification constitutes a willful violation of 
the principle of distinction, a key component of 
customary international law. Hamas is a 
multi-faceted organization, exercising de facto 
governmental control of the Gaza Strip. As an 
organization, it cannot be considered an armed 
group. Rather, a distinction must be made between 
Hamas’ armed and political/civil components. The 
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are the military 
wing of the Hamas organization, they are an armed 
group, and are considered as combatants according 
to IHL. However, Hamas’ political and civil wings 
are comprised of civilians, who are legally 
entitled to the protections associated with this 
status, provided they do not take an active part 
in hostilities. Civil police, and governmental 
officials cannot be considered combatants. 
Attacks intentionally directed against these 
individuals constitute willful killing, a grave 
breach of the Geneva Conventions, and a violation 
of customary international law.

The excessively disproportionate civilian death 
toll, and Israel’s conduct of hostilities – 
including, inter alia, indiscriminate attacks, 
wilful killing, the extensive destruction of 
property, target selection, the lack of 
precautions taken in attack, the excessive use of 
force, and the use of weapons such as white 
phosphorous in civilian areas – demand effective 
judicial redress. Many of the cases documented by 
PCHR constitute grave breaches of the Geneva 
Conventions, and war crimes. The widespread and 
apparently systematic violations of customary IHL 
witnessed in the Gaza Strip may also amount to a crime against humanity.

PCHR call on all States to fulfill their legal 
obligations, as codified in Article 146 of the 
Fourth Geneva Convention, to prosecute any 
persons suspected of committing grave breaches of 
the Geneva Conventions. All States must enact 
appropriate legislation to ensure that such 
persons may be tried in national courts, in 
accordance with the principle of universal jurisdiction.

While strongly condemning the actions of the IOF 
during their offensive on the Gaza Strip, PCHR:

1. Calls for establishing effective international 
investigation into crimes committed by IOF 
against Palestinian civilians, and Israel’s conduct of hostilities.
2. Calls for the prosecution of all political and 
military officials who are accused of committing 
war crimes against Palestinian civilians.
3. Calls for an end to all measures of collective 
punishment inflicted on the population of the 
Gaza Strip, including a lifting of the siege, and 
ensuring the free and safe movement of persons and goods.
4. Calls upon Israel to fulfill its obligations 
as the Occupying Power to facilitate unrestricted 
humanitarian access, and to provide those 
articles necessary to ensure the safety and well 
being of the civilian population.
5. Calls upon the international community to 
immediately intervene to prevent impunity for 
such crimes, and calls upon the High Contracting 
Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfill 
their obligation under Article 1 of the 
Convention to ensure respect for the Convention 
in all circumstances, as well as their obligation 
under Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention 
to search for and prosecute those who are 
responsible for perpetrating grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

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