Investigating Rocket Attacks in Israel

The following post is by Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme

Damaged building in Rishon Lezion apartment building in Tel Aviv

Damage to an apartment building in Rishon LeZion, outside Tel Aviv, from rockets fired from Gaza. © Amnesty International

It was dawn when we arrived in Israel to begin our investigation into rocket attacks from Gaza which by the end of the latest flare in violence had left six Israelis, including four civilians, dead, at least 40 injured and 300 more treated for shock.

Up in the sky oddly shaped vapour trails made us wonder if these were the remnants of the “Iron Dome” missiles – used to intercept the rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups which this time reached as far north as Tel Aviv.

One of the rooms in our apartment was the obligatory mamad – a bomb shelter which all new builds in Israel must have. Windowless, with reinforced walls, it’s there to protect residents during rocket attacks.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Gaza Blockade: Still Operational, Still Violating Human Rights

gaza blockade white house

One of our postcard actions in front of the White house

This morning, Amnesty International USA delivered thousands of signed postcards to the White House.  The postcards call on President Obama to push for an end to Israel’s continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. For over five years, the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza have lived under an Israeli military blockade that has left more than one million Palestinians dependent on international humanitarian aid.

The postcards, signed by thousands of Amnesty International supporters and members across the US, call attention to Israel’s near ban on exports from the Gaza Strip.  The Gazan economy has been effectively crippled by this export ban and other aspects of the blockade.

As a result, massive numbers of Palestinians now live in a state of permanent unemployment.  Our 2012 human rights report documents that over 70 percent of Gaza’s residents now depend on humanitarian aid.  While imports into Gaza have increased since mid-2010, they are still far below the levels allowed before the blockade began in 2007.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Send a Tweet, Free a Prisoner

Just one week after a global Twitter campaign by Amnesty International, Palestinian Waleed Hanatsheh walked free from an Israeli prison.  Israeli officials had jailed him without charge or trial for periods totaling some 5 years of his life.  But after facing the public spotlight, those same Israeli officials let Hanatsheh go home.

In this online campaign, Amnesty International members and staff targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (@IsraeliPM), the Israeli Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson), and the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC (@IsraelinUSA):

Since the 1960s, Amnesty International members have been using whatever form of communication it takes to reach governments, politicians, corporations and other targets. From mailing letters to prison cells (yes, we still do this!) to taking our demands in person to embassies, Amnesty International members have helped release tens of thousands of prisoners over the years.

The Internet has become more important to our advocacy in recent years, but does it actually work?  Can electronic messages impact governmental policies or help free prisoners in far flung countries?

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Rachel Corrie, Michael J. Fox and the Right to Housing

gaza demolitions

The remains of a home in Gaza after it was demolished by Israeli authorities in 2002

A few weeks before she died, Rachel Corrie wrote to her mother from Rafah, Gaza. ‘I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar,’ she said, ‘and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers.’

As we know, she never had the chance to do any of those things again. Following this week’s verdict in the lawsuit filed by Rachel’s parents – accusing the Israeli military of unlawfully killing Rachel, either intentionally or through gross negligence – there has been much crucial discussion of the circumstances surrounding Rachel’s death. It is also imperative that we remember the human rights work of Rachel’s life.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Verdict Expected in Death of Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie protests in Gaza

Rachel Corrie just hours prior to her being crushed in Rafah, Gaza Strip, March 16, 2003 trying to protect a home from demolition. Photo courtesy Rachel Corrie Foundation

UPDATE: The Haifa District Court in Israel has returned a verdict maintaining that the Israeli military is not responsible for ‘damages caused’ because the D9 Caterpillar bulldozer was engaged in a combat operation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003.  See Amnesty International’s USA statement on this verdict: ‘Rachel Corrie Verdict Highlights Impunity for Israeli Military’.

By Edith Garwood, country specialist on Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories/Palestinian Authority for Amnesty International USA

Tomorrow, August 28th, the family of Rachel Corrie will receive a verdict in the civil lawsuit they filed against the State of Israel for the killing of Rachel. Will that verdict deliver justice following the death of their daughter, who was killed in Gaza? Or will the verdict maintain impunity for the Israeli military?

In 2003, Rachel was killed while taking non-violent action to stop an Israeli military bulldozer from destroying a Palestinian family’s home in the Gaza Strip. During the demolition, the Israeli bulldozer ran the young American woman over.

The Corrie family’s suit charges Israel with responsibility for Rachel’s killing and failure to conduct a full and credible investigation in the case. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What a NY Times Column Gets Wrong About Israeli Settlements

Ma'ale Adumim settlement

Construction continued on the Ma'ale Adumim settlement in 2010 despite an official Israeli "freeze".

An opinion piece written last week by Dani Dayan, a leader of an association of Israeli settlers, has sparked controversy over whether – as Dayan claims – Israeli settlers have a moral right to live in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  What has been missing so far from the discussion is the human rights perspective on the issue that Amnesty International considers most important.

Dayan insists in his column that Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay” and argues that instead of trying to find a two-state solution, American diplomats should accept the status quo and “maintain the current reality on the ground.”

His argument, however, leaves out one significant fact — the establishment of settlements in the OPT violates international humanitarian law and also constitutes a serious violation of the prohibition on discrimination. The presence of settlements has led to mass violations of human rights of the local Palestinian population including, but not limited to, policies involving access to water, restrictions on movement, land confiscation and home demolitions. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Hamas Must End the Death Penalty

Trapped between a crushing Israeli blockade and human rights violations at home, the 1.6 million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip face many challenges in their daily lives.  In our 2012 Annual Report, Amnesty International catalogues the list, from a humanitarian crisis created by the Israeli blockade to detention and torture by Hamas security forces.

There are reports that at least one of the four “confessed” to the crime of murder after being tortured.

Meanwhile, Palestinian armed groups have used the Gaza Strip to fire indiscriminate rockets and mortars into southern Israel.  Daniel Viflic, aged 16, died in 2011 after a school bus in which he was travelling was struck by a missile fired from Gaza.

The latest news is that four Gaza Palestinians are facing execution after being given the death penalty by Hamas military and criminal courts.  There are reports that at least one of the four “confessed” to the crime of murder after being tortured.  The family of Na’el Jamal Qandil Doghmosh has stated that when they saw him after two months in prison, his nails had been torn out and there were burns and bruises on his body.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST