I’ve been in Brussels today witnessing the Russell Tribunal on Palestine which is assessing Israel’s war crimes in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. The full testimony is available on the Tribunal’s website, but I have captured some key excerpts from my live reporting today.
The likes of film maker Ken Loach, music legend Roger Waters and internationally renowned lawyers such as Michael Mansfield QC formed a jury – while expert witnesses from Gaza and beyond testified to the atrocities of the 50 day offensive.
Having borne personal witness to the unimaginable brutality and carnage of Israel’s onslaught while in Gaza in August, much of today was like a live action replay – evoking the same fear, anger and tear-inducing gutteral sadness that reduces you to shoulder-shaking sobs.
Here are some of the key points:
Roger Waters, Pink Floyd Music Legend
To witnesses: “You have led us very eloquently into hell today. This is heartbreaking”
Ivan Karakashian, Advocacy Unit Coordinator at Defense for Children International
“16 yr old boy stripped naked and used as human shield by Israel for 5 days. He was denied food, water and sleep – and mentally and physically abused, including lashed with a wire across his back. Israeli army stopped a family car near a West Bank protest over Gaza. Positioned their weapons in the windows of back doors, where toddlers were sitting and began to fire on protest. This is not an isolated incident. There is a clear, recorded pattern of Israel using Palestinian children as human shields during attacks on Gaza.”
Max Blumenthal, American author, journalist, and blogger
“We found one of 89 families completely liquidated during Operation Protective Edge so badly burned/destroyed they had to be buried in a mass grave by a bulldozer – evoking memories of the darkest times in European history. On outskirts of Rafah, I heard testimony from 19 yr old Mohammed Abu Said of how Israeli soldiers stripped him naked and sniped at neighbours, then set the dogs on him in between shooting rounds. In Khuza’a – a man left a group of <resistance> fighters in his home. He returned to find their throats had been cut, their bodies piled in a corner and burnt with grenades. A clear pattern of executions has been established. Israeli soldiers gather civilians in an open area, asks if anyone speaks Hebrew. When people step forward, they shoot them dead. Four brothers of one man were taken into garden and shot dead, one of them was mentally disabled and had little idea he was being killed.”
Martin Lejeune, German journalist
“More than 90% of Gaza’s agricultural output destroyed by Israel over summer, almost all farms destroyed. Israel destroyed 220 factories in Gaza, this constitutes around 70% of Gaza’s industrial output gone.There was no military justification for the destruction of these factories whatsoever. I stayed in Gaza for one month in a house with 72 Palestinian civilians, 60 of whom had been displaced. It was overcrowded, tap water wasn’t working anymore, we had to buy fuel, we had to bake our own bread as none available in shops. 220 factories were completely destroyed during the 7 weeks of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Israel has succeeded in turning a functional economy in Gaza into a third world territory in just 8 years, through the blockade and four large scale military assaults. Israel is not only attacking systematically civilians in their homes, but systematically destroying the economy of Gaza to make people dependent on aid.”
Dr Mohammad Abou-Arab, Gaza Doctor at Al Shifa Hospital
“One ambulance worker shot in the head and bled to death while fellow workers were told if they tried to assist him, they would be killed too. Another worker burned to death in his ambulance after a missile attack against it – his colleague was severely injured in the attack, left with life-altering burn injuries. We are talking about Gaza firefighters, police officers, ambulance workers and other emergency services workers being routinely shot at by snipers and missiles by Israeli military. Anyone who knows anything about Palestinian society knows that no Palestinian would use a child or family as a human shield. Israel however routinely used Palestinians as human shields throughout this operation and those prior.”
Dr Mads Glibert:Norwegian Doctor who served in Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza Throughout Offensive
“This is a systematic attack to rid Palestinians from the land. If you are an 8 yr old child in Gaza today, you have survived 4 of these onslaughts – 2006, 2008/9, 2012 and 2014. What does this do to a child? To their feeling of safety? To their outlook on the world? The medical system of Gaza was already on its knees before the summer attacks due to Israeli blockade” “This is a medical disaster – the capacity for treatment is massively exceeded by medical needs. Such disaster often happen in natural disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis…but Gaza was deliberate, controlled and executed by the Israelis.”
Mohammed Omer, Award-winning Palestinian Journalist based in Gaza
“Israeli army routinely defecate in Palestinian homes and buildings they occupy, leaving behind racist and violent graffiti together with piles of shit.
The Imam in Gaza was held for days by Israeli troops who ordered him at gunpoint to use mosque tannoy to call on community to come to the mosque. As young people gathered they were surrounded by Israeli troops, stripped naked at gunpoint and tortured/killed for sport.
The Imam was used as human shield by Israeli troops. He was stripped naked at gunpoint in front of men, women and children of the neighborhood.”
These are just a handful of moments from the full day of testimony. I encourage you to follow tomorrow’s press conference where the jury will share their conclusions. I’ll be there, reporting for you.
The trailer for my film “Palestine: What Hope Peace?”