Palestinian officials have said a pledge by Ehud Olmert to protect Israeli soldiers from prosecution over alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip will not prevent legal action being taken.
The Israeli Prime Minister promised state protection for military personnel and said the country’s top legal experts would be asked to find answers to possible questions relating to their actions. “The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza should know they are safe from various tribunals and the state of Israel will assist them on this front and will protect them as they protected us with their bodies during the military operation in Gaza.” Olmert said during his weekly cabinet meeting. The Israeli military censor has ordered local and foreign media in Israel not to publish names of any army commanders and to blur their faces in photos and on video for fear they could be identified and arrested while travelling abroad. Human rights group Amnesty International has condemned Israel’s use of white phosphorus, which causes severe burns, in built-up areas of the Gaza Strip, saying it was indiscriminate, and therefore constituted a war crime. Israel claims it used all its weapons in the Gaza war within the limits of international law. But, after meeting counterparts from the EU, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said there could be no immunity from prosecution.