The United Nations fact-finding mission on Israel's 22-day offensive
on the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009 found
evidence that Israeli forces committed serious war crimes and
breaches of humanitarian law.
It also condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets from the
Palestinian territory, which resulted in the deaths of Israeli
"We came to the conclusion, on the basis of the facts we found, that
there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious
violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human
rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations
in Gaza," Justice Richard Goldstone, the head of the UN
"The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and
possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity, were committed
by the Israel Defence Force (IDF)."
"There's no question that the firing of rockets and mortars [by
armed groups from Gaza] was deliberate and calculated to cause loss
of life and injury to civilians and damage to civilian structures.
The mission found that these actions also amount to serious war
crimes and also possibly crimes against humanity," he said.
"The mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces
constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect
of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected
persons and as such give rise to individual criminal
responsibility," the executive summary of the 575-page report said.
"It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of
Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life."
It went on to criticise the "deliberate and systematic policy on the
part of the Israeli armed forces to target industrial sites and
water installations," and the use of Palestinian civilians as human
On the objectives and strategy of Israel's offensive, the
investigation concluded that military planners deliberately followed
a doctrine which involved "the application of disproportionate force
and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property
and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations".
On the firing of mortars and rockets from Gaza, Goldstone's report
concluded that they were indiscriminate and deliberate attacks
against a civilian population and "would constitute war crimes and
may amount to crimes against humanity".
It said that their apparent intention of spreading fear among
Israeli civilians was a violation of international law.
The report recommended that the Security Council should require
Israel to take steps to launch appropriate independent
investigations into the alleged crimes committed, in conformity with
international standards, and report back on these investigations
within six months.
It further called on the Security Council to appoint a committee of
experts to monitor the proceedings taken by the Israeli government.
If these did not take place, or were not independent and in
conformity with international standards, the report called for the
Security Council to refer the situation in Gaza to the prosecutor of
the International Criminal Court (ICC).
It also called on the Security Council to require the committee of
experts to perform a similar role with regard to the relevant
Goldstone said investigators examined 36 specific incidents that
took place during the Israeli operation in Gaza, which he said did
not relate to decisions taken in the heat of battle, but to
deliberate policies that were adopted and decisions that were taken.
As an example, he described one such incident: a mortar attack on a
mosque in Gaza during a religious service, which killed 15 members
of the congregation and injured many others.
Justice Goldstone said that even if allegations that the mosque was
used as sanctuary by Palestinian fighters and those weapons were
stored there were true, there was still "no justification under
international humanitarian law to mortar the mosque during a
He said that the mosque could have been attacked during the night,
when it was not being used by civilians.