On June 8, 1967, two squadrons of Israeli warplanes bombed, napalmed and machine-gunned the US intelligence-gathering ship, USS Liberty, in international waters, killing 34 US sailors and wounding another 172. The assault took place on a sunny afternoon, with the US flag and identifying markers clearly visible. The Israelis targeted the antennae to prevent the crew from broadcasting for help and shot up the lifeboats to ensure no survivors.
In June 1982, shortly after Israel invaded Lebanon the Israel Defense Force (IDF) laid siege to Beirut. A cease-fire accord reached in August allowed the entry into West Beirut of a multilateral force, including a contingent of U.S. Marines. Israel sent troops into West Beirut, where they surrounded two Palestinian refugee camps in violation of the cease-fire agreement. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan arranged for the Israel-supported Phalange militia to enter the camps who murdered hundreds of Palestinians, mostly women, children, and older men. Israel put the figure at 800; other sources estimated it at 1,500.
Over many years, accusations against the Israeli army itself include unlawful killings, torture, extensive and wanton destruction of property, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel.
Israeli forces have also been accused of using Palestinians as human shields during military operations, forcing them to carry out tasks that endanger their lives, despite an injunction by Israel’s own high court banning the practice.
Israeli forces have killed thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, mostly in unlawful circumstances which have included reckless shooting, shelling and air strikes in civilian areas and excessive use of force.
Israel has also targeted journalists and media organisations in the Gaza strip. On the 9th of January 2009, the al-Johara Tower, in Gaza City, which was hit twice by Israeli aircraft, even though the building was clearly marked as housing media staff. On the 15th of January 2009, there was an attack on the al-Shuroug Tower which housed several media groups, also in Gaza City. Several journalists wearing vests clearly marked with ‘press’ or ‘TV’ have been killed and injured by Israeli forces, including journalists working for Reuters.
Israel is also accused of offering impunity to soldiers and settlers who commit crimes against Palestinians. In the overwhelming majority of the thousands of cases of unlawful killings and other grave human rights violations, no investigations have been carried out. In fact, the Israeli army and police routinely increase restrictions on the local Palestinian population in response to attacks by Israeli settlers.
On May 31, 2010, Israeli warships, helicopter gun ships and commandos assaulted a convoy of humanitarian ships carrying ten thousand tons of aid to Gaza in international waters. Prior to the aid mission, Turkish authorities had examined the passengers and the ship to ensure no weapons were on board. When the Israelis boarded the ship, they shot some of the unarmed passengers, killing up to 19 and wounding dozens more. No weapons were subsequently found aboard the ships.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
DO THESE CONSTITUTE WAR CRIMES OR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY?
SHOULD ANYONE BE PROSECUTED FOR THEM?
IF SO, WHO?