B'Tselem welcomes the appointment of the jurist Richard Goldstone to head the fact-finding mission, called for by the UN Human Rights Council, to investigate the recent fighting in Gaza. Particularly welcome is the delegation's mandate, which covers violations of international humanitarian law by both sides, in the Gaza Strip and in Israel.
B'Tselem believes that the delegation's mandate and its composition provide the basic conditions necessary for an independent, fair, and credible investigation. However, the delegation's success depends on the full cooperation of both sides. A balanced and objective investigation is clearly in Israel's best interest. Victims of the recent fighting - Palestinians as well as Israelis - have a right to a remedy, including recognition of their suffering and accountability for those who violated their rights.
Toward this end, B'Tselem calls on the government of Israel to enable the delegation to enter Israel and the Gaza Strip. Also, Israel should provide the delegation with all relevant materials in its possession so that the members will have before them the considerations that guided the military in determining the targets that were bombed and the weapons that were used, as well as the orders given to the ground troops. Israel has made grave allegations regarding the combat of Hamas fighters. This evidence must also be provided to the mission.
Regarding Israel's conduct, the delegation must investigate
- Whether civilian objects were the target of attack, even though the objects did not contribute to Hamas's military actions
- Whether the army acted in accordance with the principle of proportionality, whereby it is forbidden to carry out an attack that is likely to cause injury to civilians that is excessive in comparison with the direct military advantage anticipated from the attack
- Whether soldiers fired at civilians without justification
- Whether soldiers used Palestinian civilians as human shields
- Whether ambulances and medical teams, while carrying out their medical duties, were attacked
- Whether there was delay in evacuating and treating injured persons in areas in which the fighting had ceased at the time
- Prohibited use of weapons, including white phosphorous
Regarding Palestinian forces, the delegation must investigate
- The firing of rockets at Israeli civilians.
- The firing at soldiers from inside civilian neighborhoods, endangering the lives of the residents.
- Storage of weapons inside civilian structures.
- Execution of Palestinians suspected of aiding Israel and political opponents
- Holding of Gilad Shalit as a hostage.
- whether Hamas militants forced civilians to serve as human shields and made improper use of ambulances and hospitals