[JURIST] Israel was sharply criticized by Swiss diplomats Monday for allegedly violating international humanitarian law in its latest actions against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as tensions between Israel and Palestinian authorities continue to mount over the seizure of an Israeli soldier [JURIST report] by militants. Switzerland, the original host state for the Geneva Conventions [ICRC backgrounder] which retains the right to call special meetings on its implementation, took Israel to task in a lengthy statement [text] issued by its Foreign Affairs Department [official website], flagging infringements by Israel of its obligations as an occupying power to protect civilians:
A number of actions by the Israeli Defence Forces in their offensive against the Gaza Strip have violated the principle of proportionality and are to be seen as forms of collective punishment, which is forbidden. For the DFA, there is no doubt that Israel has not taken the precautions required of it in international law to protect the civilian population and infrastructure. The destruction of a power station, the attack on the offices of the Palestinian Prime Minister, the arbitrary arrests of a large number of democratically elected representatives of the people and ministers, as well as the withdrawal of the residence permits of three members of parliament and a minister in East Jerusalem cannot be justified. Attacks on civilian property are forbidden by international law. The DFA demands that Israel forgo any further attacks on civilian property, ensure the protection of the civilian population, and release the detained representatives insofar as no concrete grounds in individual cases exist that fully justify their lawful arrest.Switzerland also called for the "rapid release of the captured Israeli soldier as an important step towards calming the current situation."
An Israeli spokesman told AP that Israel was disappointed that the Swiss government did not issue similar statements when Israel's population was attacked by militants from the same area. The Swiss statement follows a warning [press release] by Amnesty International late last week that "Deliberate attacks by Israeli forces against civilian property and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip violate international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes." AP has more.