Law groups believe that the Israeli bomb attack on Gaza's cultural center is war crime
JERUSALEM, August 21, 2018 (WAFA) – Adalah – The legal center for the rights of minorities in Israel and Al Mezan Human Rights Center in Gaza said the Israeli army's air strike wounded 24 people and completely destroyed a cultural center in the Gaza Strip earlier this month could be a war crime and demanded an immediate independent criminal investigation into the attack.
On August 9, Israel fired 9 missiles from drones and fighter planes that wounded 24 people – including 8 women and children – and completely destroyed the Mishal Cultural Center in Gaza City. According to reports and testimonies of the scene, the cultural center was first hit by six rockets fired by Israeli drones and then launched by another three rockets by Israeli fighter planes.
The rocket attack caused great damage to dozens of residential apartments and other buildings next to the cultural center.
In his letter to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli military attorney general Sharon Ofek and Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, on behalf of the Said Mishal Association, Adalah Attorney Fady Khoury demanded an immediate independent criminal investigation into Israel's attack. at the Mishal Center for Culture and Science in Gaza because of suspected serious violation of international humanitarian law, human rights law and criminal law that could lead to a war crime.
Adalah and Al Mezan also demand that those responsible for the attack be prosecuted and held accountable.
International humanitarian law expressly prohibits military personnel from attacking or destroying civilian institutions, Adalah said in a press release.
Article 52 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits attacks on civilian objects and Article 53 of the First Protocol of the Geneva Conventions prohibits the occupying power to destroy property of persons or groups, unless military activities take place. Furthermore, these articles – which are also reflected by similar prohibitions of UNESCO – also specifically prohibit revenge attacks against cultural property.
Moreover, Article 27 of the Hague Convention provides that:
In the event of sieges and bombardments, all necessary steps must be taken to spare buildings that focus on religion, art, science or charity, historical monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, as long as possible, provided that they are not used for military purposes.
International humanitarian law openly prohibits attacks that are not based on internationally defined distinctions between military and civilian targets – and such attacks amount to war crimes, Adalah said.
The Said Mishal Association was established in 1996 to provide space, resources and opportunities to promote creative cultural development for children and young people in the Gaza Strip. In 2004, the association opened the Mishal Center for Culture and Science in a five-storey building with an area of 400 square meters. On the first floor of the building were a cafeteria and administrative offices; the second floor had a theater; the third floor comprised the offices of two cultural and artistic associations; on the fourth floor there were two rooms for events and activities, a library and a digital library; and an Egyptian delegation was on the fifth floor.
Leading playwrights and theater directors, working closely with artists in Gaza, condemned the bombing and total destruction of the Mishal Cultural Center in an open letter published in The Guardian on August 16, 2018, which emphasized the importance of the center and the call to accountability:
"Since its foundation in 2004, [Al-Mishal] served as a home for hundreds of plays, ceremonies, exhibitions, music performances and national ceremonies. It was the favorite location for theater companies in Gaza and a space for the best music acts of Gaza. The center also included recreational activities for children affected by three consecutive wars in Gaza, including the first dabkeh school for 250 children. It is a devastating loss for the already isolated community.
"We are deeply shocked that this act of destruction has not been widely reported in the British press." We support all efforts to continue [Al-Mishal’s] mission and the campaign for the reconstruction of the center. We urge the UK Government and the international community to take swift and effective steps to bring about the de-escalation of the situation in Gaza, to insist that citizens are effectively protected as a primary legal obligation and take strong action. to ensure that violations of international law will not be tolerated. "