Adel Safty
Gulf News
March 8, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel is facing unusual pressure for its continued siege of the Gaza population, and for its conduct of the Gaza war.

The United States, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations have demanded that Israel allow at least 500 trucks of aid daily into Gaza - Israel has been allowing less than 200.

According to Israeli officials, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has relayed messages "expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip". George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, reportedly issued "a sharply worded protest" against Israeli behaviour.

Senior US officials told the Israelis that "Israel is not making enough effort to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza".

Senior EU officials have also protested about delays in the flow of aid into Gaza.

A recent incident illustrates Israel's policy of obstruction. During his recent visit to Gaza, Senator John Kerry, a former US presidential candidate, found out that trucks carrying pasta were not allowed in because, Kerry was told by UN officials, "Israel does not define pasta as part of humanitarian aid&"

In Israel last week, Clinton publicly criticised the "economic peace" plan of Benjamin Netanyahu who is the leader of Likud party. She said that an economic initiative was futile without a political solution.

Meanwhile, international and Israeli human rights group have condemned Israel's refusal to allow independent investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by Israel during its Gaza war.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently stated "Israel's refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn't want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there."

It also condemned what it called "the unacceptable double standard" of the EU, which pursued accountability and justice for war crimes in various regions of the world, but "has been unwilling to apply those policies and mechanisms for crimes committed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

A February report by Amnesty International (AI) called for accountability for abuses of human rights and international law in Gaza and southern Israel.

AI reported that its own investigators who visited Gaza and southern Israel during and after the war found "compelling evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law". And that these violations "included direct attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian civilians and civilian objects in Gaza".

The report stated, "Israel's military intervention in the Gaza Strip has been equipped to a large extent by US-supplied weapons, paid for with US taxpayers' money". It recommended "all arms sales to Israel be frozen."

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned an Israeli attack that killed 40 people who had sought shelter at a UN school in Gaza. He demanded "a thorough investigation into these incidents and the punishment of those who are responsible for these appalling acts".

Israel has also been facing pressure from its own human rights organisations.

In a letter to Ehud Barak, Minister of Defence, Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister, and Menachem Mazuz, Attorney-General, Israeli human rights organisations pointed out that as a result of Israeli attacks on Gaza "hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands have been injured and massive damage has been caused to homes and buildings." And that this was a breach of international law.

In a different letter, seven Israeli human rights organisations appealed to the Military Judge Advocate-General, and to Attorney-General concerning "the humiliating and inhuman treatment to which [Palestinians arrested during the Gaza war] were subjected to".

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate war crimes he accuses Israel of having committed in Gaza. But since Israel is not a party to the 1998 Rome Convention that created the ICC, the court has no jurisdiction to act, unless a request is made to it by the UN Security Council, which, if it were attempted, will most likely be vetoed by the US.

The Arab League has sent a delegation to Gaza to investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel. Turkey has started its own investigations of possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

On March 2, an Iranian court requested Interpol issue arrest warrants for 15 Israeli officials in connection with possible war crimes during Israel's assault on Gaza. Recently, The Jerusalem Post reported a Spanish judge began a probe into the criminal liability of seven current or ex-Israeli officials over a 2002 Israeli assault on Gaza.

And there is a precedent suggesting Israeli leaders no longer enjoy the immunity they once enjoyed. In 2005, a UK court issued a warrant for the arrest of Israeli Brigadier General Dorom Almog on war crimes charges. He narrowly escaped arrest when he was tipped off not to leave his plane at Heathrow airport.


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