Amnesty International released a report today, “Families Under the Rubble- Israeli attacks on inhabited homes” (pdf) , accusing Israel of committing war crimes by targeting and killing scores of Palestinian civilians with no warning during Operation Protective Edge, last summer’s slaughter in Gaza.
Citing the report Amnesty International News quotes Amnesty Director of Middle East and North Africa Programme Philip Luther saying Israeli forces “brazenly” flouted the laws of war and “deliberately flattened entire homes full of civilians” without any warning:
“[D]isplaying callous indifference to the carnage caused….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.”….
“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.
The report focuses in specific (often gruesome) details of Israeli attacks on 8 multi storied residential homes, where 104 civilians were massacred, including 62 children. Noting Israeli officials have failed to acknowledge any of the attacks detailed in the report, much less justify or explain the rationale behind any of them, Amnesty concludes by recommending Israel cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council and allow access to relevant personnel and documents as well as provide access to Gaza to facilitate and investigation of international law “by all parties to the conflict.”
“The onus in[sic] on the Israeli government to explain what the intended target was in each of these attacks, in what way the target was a lawful military objective, what the means and methods of attack used were and why they were selected.”
The Israeli government has responded by saying it is conducting its own investigation of the instances in the report and accusing Amnesty of serving “as a propaganda tool for Hamas and other terror groups.” Israel has also questioned the credibility of Amnesty’s use of field workers to collect the data for the report, a strategy the organization was forced to use because Israel will not allow them to enter Gaza.
Amnesty says that ultimately the International Criminal Court should be given the authority to investigate. From Amnesty News:
Given the failure of Israeli and Palestinian authorities to independently and impartially investigate allegations of war crimes, it is imperative that the international community support the involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Amnesty International is renewing its calls on Israel and the Palestinian authorities to accede to the Rome Statute and grant the ICC the authority to investigate crimes committed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The organization is also calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Israel and the OPT to the ICC so that the prosecutor can investigate allegations of crimes under international law by all parties.
Israel has continued to deny access to Gaza for international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and the organization has been forced to conduct its research for this report remotely, supported by two fieldworkers based in Gaza. Israel has also announced that it will not co-operate with the Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council.
“Failing to allow independent human rights monitors into Gaza smacks of a deliberately orchestrated attempt to cover up violations or hide from international scrutiny. Israel must cooperate fully with the UN Commission of Inquiry and grant international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International immediate access to Gaza to prove its commitment to human rights,” said Philip Luther.