During Israel’s latest operation in the Gaza strip it killed scores of Palestinian civilians, which in some cases have amounted to war crimes, Amnesty International has concluded in a new report on Wednesday.
In its new report on the war – ‘Families under the Rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes’ – which took place in July and August 2014, the rights group details eight cases where residential family homes in Gaza were attacked by Israeli forces without warning. The attacks caused the deaths of at least 104 civilians including 62 children.
The report reveals a pattern of frequent Israeli attacks using large aerial bombs to level civilian homes, sometimes killing entire families. In the single deadliest attack documented in the report, 36 members of four families including 18 children were killed when the three-storey Al-Dali building, was struck.
“Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
“The report exposes a pattern of attacks on civilian homes by Israeli forces which have shown a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, who were given no warning and had no chance to flee.”
The report contains numerous accounts from survivors who describe the horror of frantically digging through the rubble and dust of their destroyed homes in search of the bodies of children and loved ones.
In several of the cases documented in the report possible military targets were identified by Amnesty International. However, the devastation to civilian lives and property caused in all cases was disproportionate to the military advantages gained by launching the attacks.
“Even if a fighter had been present in one of these residential homes, it would not absolve Israel of its obligation to take every feasible precaution to protect the lives of civilians caught up in the fighting. The repeated, disproportionate attacks on homes indicate that Israel’s current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with the principles of international humanitarian law,” said Philip Luther.
One of the deadliest attacks appears to have targeted a member of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, who was positioned outside the Abu Jame’ family home. The house was completely levelled killing 25 civilians including 19 children.
The rights group said that, regardless of the intended targets, many of the operations were grossly disproportionate and impermissible under international law, they should have been cancelled or postponed as soon as it was evident that so many civilians were present in the house.
It added that Israeli officials have failed to give any justification for carrying out these attacks. In some of the cases in this report, Amnesty International has not been able to identify any possible military target. In those cases it appears that the attacks directly and deliberately targeted civilians or civilian objects, which would constitute war crimes.
In all of the cases researched by Amnesty International no prior warning was given to residents of the homes which were attacked. If warnings had been given, excessive loss of civilian lives could have been avoided.
Amnesty called on Israel and the Palestinians to “accede to the Rome Statute and grant the ICC (International Criminal Court) the authority to investigate crimes committed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.
It also called for cooperation with the UN Human Rights Committee, which last month urged Israel to ensure an independent and impartial investigation to the Gaza war.
Israel said Amnesty had provided “no evidence” to back up its claims, while ignoring “documented war crimes perpetrated by Hamas, including the use of human shields, as well as ammunition storage and firing at Israeli civilian population centers from within schools, hospitals, mosques and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza.”
A statement from the Israeli foreign ministry said the report “serves as a propaganda tool for Hamas and other terror groups”.
It noted Israel was currently carrying out investigations into “90 incidents” during the Gaza campaign.