"UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk charged Tuesday that Israel's military incursion into Gaza "was not legally justified given the circumstances and diplomatic alternatives available, and was potentially a crime against peace."
He made the comment as he presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, claiming that the IDF's 22-day operation in January appeared to be "a war crime of the greatest magnitude."
Falk argued further that Palestinian rocket fire into Israel had been mostly a retaliatory act."
"The level of destruction, he said, went well beyond anything that could be characterized as a mistake.
"It is not a matter of mistakes and fallibility but rather a massive assault on a densely populated urbanized setting where the defining reality could not but subject the entire civilian population to an inhuman form of warfare that kills, maims and inflicts mental harm," said Falk.
Israel could have protected its civilian population by extending a cease-fire with Hamas that expired in December rather than attacking innocent people in Gaza, Falk said.
While Israel has repeatedly argued that Palestinian rocket attacks were unprovoked, Falk claimed that in the six months that proceeded Operation Cast Lead, it was largely Israel that had failed to observe the cease-fire and it was Hamas which had retaliated.
From 2000 to 2008, he said, in 79 percent of violent flare-ups between the IDF and Palestinians in Gaza, it was Israel that had broken the calm with an act of violence.
The cease-fire, in the second half of 2008, he said, broke down when Israel killed a Palestinian in Gaza on November 4. This was followed by mortar fire in retaliation. An IDF air strike was then launched that killed an additional six Palestinians.
"The breakdown of the cease-fire seems to have been mainly a result of Israeli violations, although this offers no legal, moral or political excuse for firing of rockets aimed at civilian targets," said Falk.
Hamas, he said, would have been ready to extend the cease-fire if Israel had reopened its borders.
Falk said Israel had violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, which regulated the actions of an occupying power and rejected Israel contention that since it withdrew from Gaza it was no longer bound by those laws.
Israel is obligated to that convention given that it controls the Gaza borders, including the sea and airspace, said Falk.
"By imposing a blockade since the summer of 2007, it has profoundly affected the life and well being of every single person in Gaza," said Falk."
See also: PFLP comments on Falk's report (in Arabic)
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