THERE are no adjectives left in the dictionary adequate for the task of describing the obscenity of the Israel attack on Gaza. “Shocking” said the head of the Red Cross after visiting hospitals in Gaza yesterday; “intolerable” said Ban ki-Moon, UN Secretary General - but such words have lost any force in the face of 1'000 mainly civilian deaths, 315 of them children, and 4'700 injured. The Israelis have reported the loss of 13 lives.

The means by which the Israeli onslaught is brought to an end and Hamas's rockets are stopped is no longer the main issue. A terrible crime has been committed and it is not too soon to begin to consider how those primarily responsible for it should be brought to account. A group of British lawyers and academics yesterday suggested that Israel may be guilty of a breach in international humanitarian law which prohibits attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and combatants or which are likely to cause harm to civilians that is excessive when compared to the advantage sought by the attack. Another group has pointed to the probability that Israel's blockade of humanitarian relief and the destruction of civilian infrastructure may amount to war crimes. A reference to the International Court of Justice has been mentioned as one possible course of action. The important point is that on this occasion Israel should not be allowed to ignore the international strictures as it has done so often in the past.


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