Friday, November 10, 2006
"The Israel Defense Forces' internal inquiry into its artillery shelling of Beit Hanoun, which killed 19 Palestinian civilians and left dozens injured in northern Gaza, failed to address the key questions of whether the attack was a violation of international law and who should be held accountable for the lethal fire, Human Rights Watch said today. The Israeli government should immediately conduct a comprehensive independent investigation to establish these issues. "The IDF's internal probe suggests that the Beit Hanoun tragedy can be chalked up to an errant volley of shells," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "But a comprehensive investigation should start with questioning whether Israel had any business firing artillery shells into this civilian area to begin with."
Human Rights Watch said that the investigation should examine the policy that has led Israel to fire some 15,000 artillery shells into Gaza since September 2005, killing 49 Palestinian civilians and seriously injuring dozens more. A comprehensive investigation should identify issues of individual and command responsibility, including criminal responsibility, for any violation of international humanitarian law committed in the conduct of these artillery operations in northern Gaza.
"Israeli forces launched the artillery attack on Beit Hanoun at a time when their commanders knew, or should have known, that the risk of civilian deaths far outweighed any definite military advantage," said Whitson. "