In its official responses to the Goldstone Report, Israel has vehemently denied that it purposely and systematically destroyed Gaza’s civilian infrastructure during “Operation Cast Lead,” as the U.N. report alleges.
One of the many damning allegations in the report states that as the Israeli military began withdrawing from Gaza on January 15, 2009, “there appeared to be a practice of systematically demolishing a large number of structures, including houses, water installations, such as tanks on the roofs of houses, and of agricultural land.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a comprehensive, 134-page report today titled, “’I Lost Everything’: Israel’s Unlawful Destruction of Property during Operation Cast Lead.” HRW’s report comes to a similar conclusion the Goldstone Report does: Israel committed war crimes in Gaza when “Israeli forces caused extensive destruction of homes, factories, farms and greenhouses in areas under IDF control without any evident military purpose. These cases occurred when there was no fighting in these areas; in many cases, the destruction was carried out during the final days of the campaign when an Israeli withdrawal was imminent.”
As this latest report notes, the targeting of civilian infrastructure seems to have been official Israeli policy, according to statements made by Israeli officials. For instance, Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai said, “we have to determine a price tag for every rocket fired into Israel,” and recommended that “even if they fire at an open area or into the sea, we must damage their infrastructures and destroy 100 houses.”
The HRW report examines 12 cases of “unlawful destruction” of civilian property, including the el-Bader flour mill, juice and biscuit plants, and seven concrete factories.
HRW recommends that Israel conduct impartial investigations into the cases the report documents, and to prosecute those responsible for war crimes. That will not happen, though, as a separate April 2010 HRW report concludes that “Israel’s investigations into serious laws-of-war violations by its forces during last year’s Gaza war lack thoroughness and credibility.”
In addition to that recommendation, the HRW report urges the United States to halt all sales of Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers until “an official investigation into the IDF’s use of these bulldozers to destroy civilian property in Gaza” concludes.
The report also repeats the Goldstone Report’s recommendations that if independent and impartial investigations by the parties involved in the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict do not materialize, the International Criminal Court should get involved.