Met Police investigating reports of war crimes in Gaza

Scotland Yard has received over 20 referrals of potential war crimes committed in Gaza since 7 October

Alexander Butler
Monday 27 November 2023 17:14 GMT
Israel strikes Gaza

The Metropolitan Police is investigating reports of war crimes committed in Gaza.

Scotland Yard’s war crimes unit is collaborating with the International Criminal Court to investigate any war crimes committed by Israel or Hamas in the region since 7 October.

The unit has received over 20 referrals, including those made by individuals recently returned from Gaza, since the conflict began.

In one case, the force has contacted a leading surgeon who worked in Al-Shifa and Al-Ahli hospitals for nearly two months to give testimony of potential war crimes.

Professor Ghassan abu Sitta, who travelled to Gaza on 9 October to work as a surgeon, said he had seen evidence of war crimes, including the use of white phosphorus on civilians.

Professor Sitta claimed he “increasingly” saw white phosphorous burn wounds while he worked in the region.

“When the land invasion happened, we started getting patients increasingly from the north with white phosphorous burns.

“Once you’ve seen them you know what they are. The flesh of these patients turn to Swiss cheese, with black burns from phosphorous pellets,” he said.

Previously, the Israeli military said: “The current accusation made against the IDF regarding the use of white phosphorus in Gaza is unequivocally false.”

Professor Sitta said a 15-year-old boy was “showered” with pellets of white phosphorous while running away which left his back covered with chemical burns.

Israel LShells that appears to be white phosphorus from Israeli artillery explode over Dahaira, a Lebanese border village with Israel, south Lebanon, on 16 October

White phosphorous, the use of which is considered illegal in dense, civilian populations, is used for illumination and to stop heat seeking missiles shooting down aircraft.

The use of such incendiary weapons are allowed when "not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons,” according to an international protocol ratified by Israel in 1995.

But the use of these weapons are not allowed where civilians are concentrated, according to international law and the protocol ratified by Israel.

Professor Sitta also claimed the Israeli Defence Forces “deliberately” targeted civilians in schools, hospitals and places of worship.

“Patients reported the wiping out of entire families and have described them as massacres,” he said. He added that 40 to 45 per cent of patients he treated while he worked in the region were children.

Professor Ghassan abu Sitta said a 15-year-old boy was ‘showered’ with pellets of white phosphorous

The Israeli Defence Forces says it does not attack civilians. In October, a spokesperson said: “According to the laws of armed conflict, we are not targeting civilians. Casualties in Gaza or civilian casualties are regrettable. They are not the aim of our operations.”

A Met Police spokesperson told The Independent: “As the UK’s investigative authority for war crimes, Counter Terrorism Policing - through the Met’s War Crimes Team - has a responsibility to support International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations. The ICC opened an investigation in 2019 into alleged war crimes in Israel and Palestine and this remains ongoing.

“The War Crimes Team has received more than 20 referrals in recent weeks relating to the conflict in Israel and Palestine. These include referrals made by individuals who have recently returned to the UK from the region.

“These are being looked at in line with our usual guidelines for assessing such referrals relating to allegations of war crimes. Any information that is assessed as being relevant to the ongoing ICC investigation into the Palestine situation will then be passed to the ICC as appropriate.

“There is currently no UK-based investigation in relation to this matter. Anyone wishing to report a War Crime-related matter can do so via our website: https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/war-crimes.”

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