"The [Israeli] soldiers shelled the house and killed my mother, my father, my baby girl and 25 other members of my family. Why? We are not Hamas, we are not fighters. Why did they do this to us?" – Salah Sammouni, Gaza – January 2009
"My five-year old son always asks where the closest bomb shelter is. Little children shouldn't have such worries; they should worry about what to play next." – Geut Aragon, whose house in Sderot was hit by a Palestinian rocket – December 2008
Some 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 300 children, and 13 Israelis, three of them civilians, were killed during the recent three-week conflict in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. Israeli military operations also devastated Gaza’s infrastructure and created a humanitarian catastrophe.
Amnesty International researchers who visited both Gaza and southern Israel during the fighting and in its immediate aftermath found compelling evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
This included direct attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, attacks which breached the prohibition on disproportionate attacks and the use of weapons, such as white phosphorus, which have indiscriminate effects when used in densely populated civilian areas.
In the same period, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of indiscriminate rockets into civilian population centres in southern Israel.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced on 12 February 2009 that a UN Board of Inquiry had begun its work “to review and investigate a number of specific incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009 and in which death or injuries occurred at, and/or damage was done to, United Nations premises or in the course of United Nations operations."
Amnesty International has described the move as "welcome, but insufficient" since most of the unlawful attacks for which evidence is available will fall outside the scope of the UN's Board of Inquiry, and is therefore calling on the UN, and the Security Council in particular, to comprehensively address all instances of violations of international law during the conflict.
"The UN's investigation must not be so limited as to look only at recent attacks by Israeli forces on UN schools, staff and property in Gaza. It is not only the victims of attacks on the UN who have a right to know why their rights were violated and who was responsible, and to obtain justice and reparation.
"What is needed is a comprehensive international investigation that looks at all alleged violations of international law - by Israel, by Hamas and by other Palestinian armed groups involved in the conflict." – Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International -- 10 February 2009