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U.N. Gaza Inquiry Chairman: 'The International Criminal Court is sitting in the wings'

September 4th, 2014
01:50 PM ET

by Henry Hullah

The war between Israel and Hamas has left both sides accused of committing war crimes as Gaza lies shattered.

In less than two months a reported 17,000 homes were destroyed while tens of thousands have been left destitute and without a place to live.

On top of this, Israel is confiscating around 1,000 acres of Palestinian land near Bethlehem. Human rights expert Professor William Schabas is chairman of a U.N. inquiry in to the conflict.

He's received criticism in this role and the Commission of the Inquiry he is leading has been labelled a 'Kangaroo court' by the spokesperson for the Israeli foreign minister. Schabas seemed optimistic about the prospect of speaking with unenthusiastic officials.

"They can't prevent us doing an inquiry by refusing to give us access."

"I'm hopeful that we're going to convince Israel to cooperate with the inquiry. You know, five or six years ago, there was a controversial inquiry that was presided over by Richard Goldstone."

"He later said that if he had known things when the report was being prepared that he later learned, the report would have been different. I think that's a powerful lesson for Israel about the interest it has in actually coming forward and cooperating with the inquiry."

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Filed under:  Gaza • Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

‘Traumatization is everywhere,’ says Red Cross President in Gaza

August 5th, 2014
03:00 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

There is a deep feeling of trauma in Gaza, Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen from Gaza City.

“Traumatization is everywhere,” Maurer said. “I was shocked indeed by the impact of the shelling over the past couple of weeks on the neighborhood, but also a couple of hours later to see the children, women, and men who have been exposed to that shelling in hospitals – to see how wounded they were, and how difficult it was to cope with the numbers and the seriousness of the wounds of all those civilians who were in the hospitals I visited.”

Maurer was able to visit Gaza because of a shaky cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that seems to have held after going into effect early Tuesday.

During his visit, he tweeted that he had “never seen such massive destruction ever before” – strong words for the president of the Red Cross, who has no doubt seen quite some destruction in his time.

“Even if we are on the first day of a seemingly holding cease-fire, my clear opinion is that much more will have to be done over the days and weeks to come to scale up our operations in terms of health response, water and sanitation, sewage, economic livelihoods,” Maurer told Pleitgen. “A lot has been disrupted over the past couple of weeks.”

“In terms of response, I was on the one side positively surprised by the quality of work, by the engagement.”

“It will be a challenge. We are certainly motivated, and even more so after this visit today, to put as good as possible our resources into mobilizing this response.”

“We will have objective difficulties; we will have to engage with the Israelis in order to channel as much aid as possible through the crossing.”


Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

Israel calls ‘hypocrisy’ in international criticism

August 4th, 2014
03:34 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Criticism of Israel from some of its staunchest allies smacks of hypocrisy, the Israeli intelligence minister told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.

“Sometimes I feel there is some hypocrisy in the criticism,” Yuval Steinitz said. “Maybe [the] United States, Britain, France, and NATO forces can teach us from their experience how to minimize collateral damage – for example, in their experience in Belgrade; their experience in Iraq; in Fallujah in Iraq; or in Afghanistan.”

“The IDF is doing more than any other armed forces, including Western armed forces, to minimize collateral damage.”

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Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

Could Israel face war crimes charges?

July 31st, 2014
04:17 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

“Today the world stands disgraced.”

That is how the head of United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which runs shelters for Palestinians, reacted to the shelling of a Gaza school that was serving as a U.N. shelter for 3,000 Palestinians.

Twenty people were killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The United Nations blames Israel for the attack. Israel has not given a direct explanation, but says many Hamas rockets misfire and fall within Gaza; it also says that Hamas purposefully fire weapons from civilian areas and that the Israeli military does not target civilians.

UNRWA says that it had sent the school’s GPS coordinates to Israel 17 separate times to ensure it would remain safe.

“You see the Israelis shifting over the last several days to ground weapons,” CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr says. “You see them using tanks, mortars, artillery.”

“The real pinpoint accuracy comes if you’re going to go back to relying on airstrikes, because that type of munition – bombs out of aircraft – these days are guided to their target by a laser using GPS coordinates.”

Even the United States, Israel’s closest ally, said Thursday that the shelling of the school was “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.”

Could Israel face war crimes charges?

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Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

For children of Gaza, trauma can be worse than war itself

July 29th, 2014
03:07 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

For many children in Gaza, war is all they know.

“In the past six years, three wars happened in Gaza,” Rifat Kassis, director of Defence for Children International told CNN’s Hala Gorani, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Tuesday. “So we are talking about a generation who only experienced war and violence.”

And there are a lot of children in Gaza – about 43% of the population is under the age of twelve. The United Nations says that more than two hundred children have been killed in this conflict, now three weeks old.

“When there is no place in Gaza where you can feel secure, when you lose your parents or one of your parents – this loss of the protection, this loss, the separation feeling from your parents, this is actually worse than the war activity itself,” Kassis said.

UNICEF says that about 200,000 children “are in need of immediate psychosocial support.”

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Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

U.N. political chief pushes for elusive Gaza, Israel cease-fire

July 29th, 2014
07:21 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The United Nations is doing its best to try to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Jeffrey Feltman, the top U.N. political official, told CNN’s Hala Gorani, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.

“The U.N. is playing a role. I wish, like all of us, that the impact were on the fighting were clear now. But it's the responsibility of the leaders as much as nobody else.”

Feltman’s boss, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on Monday put blame for the failure to reach a cease-fire squarely on the shoulders of Israeli and Palestinian political leadership, saying that they must “show their humanity.”

“There are a hundred-and-seventy-three-thousand-plus Palestinians, ten percent of the Gaza Strip population, that are now being sheltered in U.N. facilities,” Feltman said.

“The U.N. is still working to – talking with all parties – to try to get to that immediate unconditional cease-fire that the Secretary-General has demanded.”

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Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

American teen recounts savage beating by Israeli police that helped spark crisis

July 22nd, 2014
02:48 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

A Palestinian-American teenager whose savage beating by Israeli police helped set off the current crisis described his shocking ordeal in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

“They kicked me in the face. They kneed me in the face. They punched me in the face,” Tariq Khdeir said. “They were beating me like they had no – they didn’t know what they were doing. Why would they be beating me like that?”

Amateur video of Khdeir’s beating went viral and caused widespread outrage; Israeli authorities say they have suspended one of the police officers involved in the case.

Khdeir was born and grew up in the United States; he was in the West Bank visiting family when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and found dead in the West Bank.

Khdeir’s cousin, Mohammed Abu Khedair, was murdered in what was largely seen as a retaliatory attack for the Israelis’ death.

“I asked if he needed anything from the bakery,” he told Amanpour. “And he said sure, and I went to the bakery and I bought him some things.”

“And I came back and I found the cop car there. And then the cops told me … ‘You can’t get closer to the scene.’ And Mohammed wasn’t there.”

Israel finds Hamas are no longer amateur fighters

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Israel shelling of Gaza hospitals ‘needs to be questioned,’ says Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni

July 21st, 2014
02:55 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Israel’s shelling of hospitals in Gaza “needs to be questioned,” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“So we are questioning this and we will make all the facts found public,” she said.

The Shuhada Al-Aqsa hospital in central Gaza was hit by shelling, leaving five people dead - one patient and four relatives, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

“We are not trying and we are not punishing the Palestinian people for what Hamas is doing,” Livni said. “We are trying to target these tunnels, the places in which they hide weapons and missiles.”

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Ex-Israel Intelligence chief Efraim Halevy calls for talks with Hamas: ‘There are worse options than Hamas’

July 15th, 2014
03:15 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The former Israeli Intelligence Minister called for negotiations with Hamas in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

“Hamas is a very bad option, undoubtedly. But there are worse options than Hamas,” Efraim Halevy, former Mossad chief, said.

“And we already know what some of them might be, especially one of them: the ISIS – which is operating now in the northern Iraq and central Iraq – has its tentacles in the Gaza Strip too.”

Halevy said that just as in Europe, ISIS is recruiting in Gaza.

An Israeli cease-fire on Tuesday lasted six short hours; the Hamas rocket fire never stopped, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that attacks on Gaza be intensified.

It is “inconvenient politically,” Halevy said, for both Israel and Hamas to admit that they negotiate. But the truth, he said, is that they have already been doing it for years.

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The grim reality in Gaza

July 10th, 2014
06:25 AM ET

As the shooting war between Israel and Hamas intensifies, what of the Gaza residents who aren't firing rockets, those who don't command or control Hamas fighters and aren't interested in the politics?

Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, spoke with CNN’s Michael Holmes about the reality for the people on the ground.

Click above to watch.


Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories
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