Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Gaza Watch: 19

8 November 2006

To H.E. Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey
Federal Councillor
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Bern, Switzerland

Via email: generalsekretaer at

Dear Minister Calmy-Rey,

This morning, Israeli occupation forces shelled a civilian
area near Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip,
killing nineteen people, of whom at least eight are
children, and four women. Eleven of the dead are from a
single family. Over forty people were wounded.

This morning's massacre brings to at least 73 the number
of Palestinians killed since November 1 including at least
16 children and six women, and to over 300 the number
injured. Two of the dead were Red Crescent medics tending
to the injured.

I am not an ambassador, a minister, or an elected
official. I have no standing to appeal to your conscience
except as a human being. I do so now with all the will I
can muster to urge your government immediately to
reconvene the Conference of the High Contracting Parties
of the Fourth Geneva Convention urgently to consider
measures to enforce this Convention and end the grave and
mounting breaches being perpetrated by Israel, the
Occupying Power, in the Gaza Strip.

Since June 26, Israeli occupation forces have killed over
360 Palestinians in Gaza, over half of whom are
non-combatant civilians. There is clear and mounting
evidence that the Israeli political and military leaders
act knowingly, wilfully and indiscriminately when they
carry out these killings. Indeed they boast that they make
no distinction between civilians and combatants.

According to B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights
organization, Israel's prime minister Ehud Olmert told the
Israeli parliament on October 30 that in the previous
three months, the Israeli military has killed 300
"terrorists" in the Gaza Strip. According to B'Tselem's
investigation, Israeli occupation forces did indeed kill
294 Palestinians in Gaza between June 26 and October 27.
However, over half of those killed -- 155 people,
including 61 children -- did not participate in the
fighting when they were killed.

On November 5 the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS)
stated, "Israeli occupying forces have deliberately
attacked and targeted unarmed civilians as well as PRCS
ambulances and medical teams. On November 3, 2006, Israeli
forces targeted and killed two members of PRCS medical
teams, while they were attempting to evacuate a victim
killed by Israeli fire in Beit Lahia area."

PRCS reported that "Beit Hanoun Hospital continues to be
under siege by Israeli tanks and armored vehicles, which
prevent medical teams and victims from reaching the
hospital," and it called "upon the states parties to the
Geneva Conventions, the UN Secretary General, the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and
international organizations of human rights" to act.

It was heartening when Switzerland previously convened the
Conference of the High Contracting Parties several years
ago, though disappointing that it was adjourned without
substantial action. I respectfully remind you that the
Conference declaration issued by the Swiss Federal
Government on 5 December 2001 stated:

"The participating High Contracting Parties call upon the
Occupying Power to immediately refrain from committing
grave breaches involving any of the acts mentioned in art.
147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, such as wilful
killing, torture, unlawful deportation, wilful depriving
of the rights of fair and regular trial, extensive
destruction and appropriation of property not justified by
military necessity and carried out unlawfully and
wantonly. The participating High Contracting Parties
recall that according to art. 148 no High Contracting
Party shall be allowed to absolve itself of any liability
incurred by itself in respect to grave breaches."

The statement adds that the participating High Contracting
Parties "welcome and encourage the initiatives by States
Parties, both individually and collectively, according to
art. 1 of the Convention and aimed at ensuring the respect
of the Convention, and they underline the need for the
Parties, to follow up on the implementation of the present

Unfortunately no follow up action has been taken by any
states parties to the Convention. If under the present
circumstances no country moves to fulfill its obligations
under this Convention, it is the clearest evidence
possible that the regime of international law, so
painstakingly built, and which I learned about with awe
when I visited the Red Cross Museum in Geneva, is impotent
and worthless to those who are most in need of its

I urge you to act forthwith, with the force of the law,
with the moral authority that you enjoy, and with the
courage it will take knowing that you would be doing so
even as all the others who have the power and
responsibility to act choose silence and complicity.

With highest regards,
Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and
author of "One Country - A Bold Proposal to End the
Israeli-Palestinian Impasse" (Metropolitan Books, 2006)

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