Gaza civilians waving white flags shot: HRW

JERUSELAM: Israeli soldiers unlawfully shot and killed 11 Palestinian civilians, including four children, who were in groups waving white flags during the Gaza war, Human Rights Watch said today. “The Israeli military should conduct thorough, credible investigations

into these deaths to tackle the prevailing culture

of impunity,” the New York-based organisation said in a 63-page report.

It said the 11 people were only small fraction of the total number of civilians and combatants killed in the December-January Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. “However, these deaths stand out because the civilians were in groups waving a white cloth, T-shirt or scarf, and no Palestinian fighters were in the area at the time,” HRW said.

In one of the cases, two women and three children were standing in front of their home after a soldier ordered them outside.

At least three of them were holding pieces of

white cloth when a soldier opened fire, killing two girls aged two and seven and wounding the third girl and their grandmother.

“We spent seven to nine minutes waving the flags, and we were looking at them,” the grandmother, who was shot twice, was quoted as saying. “And suddenly they opened fire and the girls fell to the ground.” In five of the seven incidents detailed in the report, Israeli soldiers shot at civilians who were walking down the street with white flags, trying to leave areas of fighting.

The military said last month it was investigating incidents in which soldiers allegedly killed civilians holding white flags, but HRW charged: “Field investigations typically consist of asking soldiers to question other soldiers, without seeking or considering testimony from external witnesses, and taking exculpatory claims of soldiers at face value,” the group said of Israeli military investigations.