Amnesty: ‘Israel committed war crimes’


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Amnesty: 'Israel committed war crimes¹

Doug Lorimer

On August 23, human rights group Amnesty International accused Israel of 
committing war crimes. Amnesty said that the pattern and scope of Israel¹s 
bombing campaign in Lebanon, statements by Israeli officials and the scale of 
damage inflicted on civilian infrastructure ³indicated that such destruction was
deliberate and part of a military strategy, rather than 'collateral damage¹².

A report by the group, Deliberate destruction or 'collateral damage¹?, argued: 
³Many of the violations ... are war crimes that give rise to individual criminal
responsibility. They include directly attacking civilian objects and carrying 
out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks. People against whom there is 
prima facie evidence of responsibility for the commission of these crimes are 
subject to criminal accountability anywhere in the world through the exercise of
universal jurisdiction.²

Despite this and similar indictments of its war on Lebanon, and despite agreeing
to a UN-brokered ³ceasefire² on August 14, Israel has made it clear that it will
continue to carry out military attacks on Lebanon following the failure of its 
34-day mass bombing campaign to destroy Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, a Shiite-based Lebanese party with 14 MPs and two cabinet ministers, 
led the armed resistance to Israel¹s 1982-2000 occupation of southern Lebanon 
and mounted a guerrilla defence against Israel¹s latest aggression that stunned 
the Israeli establishment with its effectiveness.

The August 20 New York Times reported that an unnamed high-ranking Israeli 
general said that Israel would attempt to kill Hezbollah secretary-general 
Hassan Nasrallah. ³There¹s only one solution for him. This man must die², the 
general said.

The general also said that Israel would launch attacks on any vehicles in 
Lebanon that the Israeli military ³believes² are being used to smuggle arms from
Syria to Hezbollah. Most of the 15,000 Israeli air attacks on Lebanon carried 
out between July 12 and August 14 ‹ including those against roads, bridges, Red 
Cross ambulances and UN humanitarian relief convoys ‹ were justified by Israeli 
officials as being aimed at stopping Hezbollah ³rearming² its soldiers in 
southern Lebanon.

Early on August 20, Israeli commandos attempted to carry out a raid into the 
village of Boudai, in north-east Lebanon. Both the Lebanese government and UN 
officials condemned the Israeli raid as a violation of the August 11 UN Security
Council Resolution 1701, which called for a ³full cessation of hostilities, 
based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks 
and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations².

Israeli officials, however, argued that the commando raid did not violate the UN
resolution, claiming it was a ³defensive operation² to stop Hezbollah ³rearming²
its fighters with weapons smuggled into Lebanon from Syria. The UN resolution 
calls on the Lebanese government to ensure that no weapons are brought into the 
country without its authorisation.

However, Israeli officials offered no evidence that any weapons were being 
smuggled through Boudai. Subsequent Israeli press reports indicated that the 
real purpose of the night-time commando raid was to capture a top Hezbollah 
leader, Sheik Mohammed Yazbeck, in order to exchange him for the two Israeli 
soldiers captured on July 12 by Hezbollah guerrillas along the ³Blue Line², the 
UN-recognised border.

This small operation was the nominal pretext for the month-long war Israel waged
on Lebanon ‹ a war that cost the lives of at least 1200 Lebanese citizens, a 
third of them children under 12, and an estimated US$15 billion in destroyed 
civilian infrastructure, according to the UN Development Program spokesperson 
Jean Fabre. A quarter of the country¹s road bridges, 15,500 apartment units and 
34,000 houses and business premises were destroyed.

The August 20 attack by Israeli commandos, who were disguised as Lebanese army 
soldiers, turned into a debacle when their cover was blown. Although only 10 
Hezbollah soldiers were initially involved in the gun battle with the Israeli 
commando squad, 300 Boudai villagers mobilised, picked up their Kalashnikov 
assault rifles and joined the fight.

The August 20 Los Angeles Times reported: ³The Israelis in the SUVs apparently 
flubbed a traditional Arabic greeting, fighters said. They were waved on to the 
next checkpoint, where Hezbollah fighters ambushed them, sending them fleeing 
into tobacco fields ... Apache helicopters fired from above, as larger 
helicopters evacuated the men and their vehicles, the fighters said. The 
confrontation lasted about an hour ...

³The Israeli military acknowledged that one of its officers was killed and two 
others were wounded, one seriously. The military said that Israeli jets had to 
provide cover in order to extricate the soldiers and that at one point the 
planes dropped bombs to knock out a bridge to prevent more Hezbollah fighters 
from joining the battle.²

On August 21, Israeli ³defence² minister Amir Peretz announced a military 
inquiry would be conducted into the ³alleged failures² of Israel¹s month-long 
assault on Lebanon so as ³to prepare for the next round². He also announced that
Israeli troops would ³continue to prevent the Lebanese army from deploying 
within two kilometres of the border, before the deployment of the multinational 

A ³multinational force² ‹ the 1990-member UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) ‹
is already deployed in observation posts along the Lebanese side of the Blue 
Line. The UN ³ceasefire² resolution, adopted by the Security Council on August 
11, calls for all Israeli troops to be pulled back to the Israeli side of the 
Blue Line as the Lebanese side is occupied by Lebanese army soldiers and an 
expanded UNIFIL force.

UNIFIL was set up in March 1978 under Security Council Resolution 425 to 
supervise a UN-ordered ³immediate withdrawal² of Israeli troops from south 
Lebanon after Israel¹s March 1978 invasion. Resolution 1701 calls for up to 
13,000 extra troops to be added to UNIFIL.

France, which currently commands UNIFIL, had given the impression before the 
adoption of Resolution 1701 that it would commit an extra 5000 soldiers to its 
existing 200-soldier UNIFIL contingent.

However on August 17, French defence minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Paris 
would not commit more than 200 extra troops to UNIFIL, all engineers, because 
the new mandate that UNIFIL will operate under is ³fuzzy². French military 
officials later told reporters that they did not want their troops put in a 
situation where they would be required to engage in armed confrontations with 
Hezbollah¹s soldiers.

However, on August 25 France announced it would add an extra 1600 troops to its 
UNIFIL contingent.

In an article in the August 22 Toronto Star, Timur Goksel, a former Turkish army
officer who was the spokesperson for UNIFIL for 24 years, explained that the 
ambiguities of UNIFIL¹s new mandate were deliberately made to suit Israel.

Resolution 1701, Goksel wrote, ³reflects the political agenda of the US and 
Israel, and thus fails to consider the realities of Israel's military 
disappointment, the internal Lebanese political dynamic which prevents the army 
from confronting Hezbollah, and the inherent limitations of UN peacekeeping, 
which requires a clear and achievable mandate without resorting to use of 

Goksel continued: ³Despite its clear military superiority, and the unfettered 
support it received from the US, Israel failed to achieve any of its objectives 
during its brutal war on Lebanon, namely freeing its captured soldiers, 
neutralizing Hezbollah, and reasserting its deterrent power while clipping the 
wings of Syria and Iran.

³Indeed, Hezbollah has emerged politically stronger within Lebanon and the Arab 
region for resisting Israel and restoring pride to Arabs so used to military 
defeat and political submission; while Syria and Iran have also gained from 
Hezbollah's success.

³The US drafted UN Resolution 1701 with the intention of accomplishing 
politically what Israel could not achieve militarily. An earlier draft of this 
resolution clearly revealed America's hand when it specifically called for an 
international force to be deployed in southern Lebanon under the terms of 
Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes the use of force to implement its 

³In blunt terms, this would have meant that such an international presence would
have been required to disarm Hezbollah, by force if necessary.

³There can be little doubt that Hezbollah's success on the battlefield gave 
Lebanon enough leverage to ensure the removal of this reference to Chapter 7 in 
the final text...

³The final wording of Resolution 1701 thus implies that an expanded UNIFIL would
operate under the more acceptable terms of Chapter 6 of the UN Charter, which is
concerned with the 'pacific settlement of disputes¹ and thus lacks the mandate 
to use force.

³Still, there remains genuine concern by UN member states that the US has 
deliberately inserted text into Resolution 1701 that mischievously recalls 
Chapter 7 language and logic and implies its terms. Indeed, recent statements by
senior UN, US and Israeli officials seem to be reinforcing the notion that there
are Chapter 7 elements in this resolution, thus contradicting its spirit.²

These elements, Goksel argued, ³may put UNIFIL in the position of having to 
confront Hezbollah or other armed groups in southern Lebanon, a potentially 
dangerous situation that would likely result in UNIFIL being seen as the enemy 
and therefore threaten its neutrality and effectiveness².

Following France¹s August 17 announcement, only Italy made a definite commitment
to add more troops to UNIFIL (up to 3000) ‹ provided Italy had command of 
UNIFIL, other European Union countries commit significant numbers of troops and 
UNIFIL is not required to search for Hezbollah¹s weapons.

On August 21, Italian foreign minister Massimo D'Alema added a new condition. 
³We cannot send our troops to Lebanon if the Tsahal [Israeli army] keeps 
shooting², he told La Repubblica.

Associated Press reported on August 23 that Israeli troops stationed in the 
Shebaa Farms area, which Israel has occupied since 1967, fired artillery shells 
near Lebanese army positions ³intermittently² for ³three hours².

While much of the world¹s attention has focused on Israel¹s war against Lebanon,
the brutal assault against the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip has 
relentlessly continued, bringing Gaza to the brink of a humanitarian disaster. 
The Palestine News Network reported on August 23 that the Gaza-based Al Dameer 
Foundation for Human Rights had issued a statement warning of a ³humanitarian 
catastrophe as Israeli occupation forces practice collective punishment against 
the citizens of the Gaza Strip².

From Green Left Weekly, August 30, 2006.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

Escaping the Matrix website
cyberjournal website  
subscribe cyberjournal list     mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives      
  cyberjournal forum  
  Achieving real democracy
  for readers of ETM  
  Community Empowerment
  Blogger made easy