It was December 27 last year when Israeli forces launched their Gaza offensive. Devastating air raids were followed by a ground invasion, deep into the Palestinian territory. The stated aim was to stop militants firing rockets into Israel.
But militants were not the only ones to bear the brunt of the crackdown. Homes, hospitals and schools were destroyed. Israel was accused of illegally firing phosphorus shells, Hamas Islamists of using civilians as human shields. Amid international condemnation, a ceasefire was declared on January 18 2009. By that time, Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 people had been killed, over half of them Gazan civilians. This as well as 5,000 injured and damage put at 670 million euros. In a United Nations report, investigators led by South African judge Richard Goldstone found both Israel and Hamas militants committed war crimes. But Israel came in for most criticism and the recommendations were clear. Bill Van Esveld from Human Rights Watch said: “It recommended that Israel and Hamas both conduct independent investigations into allegations of war crimes violations during the Gaza war and the Goldstone report recommended that if that did not happen in six months, then there should be a referral from the Security Council to the International Criminal Court.” But Israel’s faithful ally the United States does not want the report put before the Security Council. And its veto power there effectively rules out any action or statement that is hostile to Israel. “We continue to have serious concerns about the report – it’s unbalanced focus on Israel,” said Alejandro Wolff, the deputy US Ambassador to the UN. “We are accused of these terrible accusations, of war crimes, which we completely deny because we have been investigating and looking into many events,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, adding that 23 files are still being investigated. So where does the Goldstone report go from here? Despite widespread calls for action, the document has been denounced as absurd by Israel’s Prime Minister. Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will resist any attempt to try its leaders or soldiers on war crimes charges abroad.