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Amnesty: Israel committed war crimes in retaliation for capture of Israeli soldier

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“What we saw was not just war,” Rafah resident Iyad Ghaboun said of Israel’s summer 2014 attack on Gaza. “It was like a meat machine making mincemeat from people without mercy.”

Israel carried out war crimes and “possible crimes against humanity” in its attack on Rafah, Gaza from August 1-4, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

When Hamas fighters captured an Israeli soldier and took him into a tunnel, the Israeli military initiated the “Hannibal Directive,” unleashing what Amnesty described as “massive firepower in the neighborhood surrounding the tunnel, despite the risk to civilians and the captured soldier.”

Today, the beginning of the Rafah massacre, August 1, is referred to as “Black Friday.”

Amnesty created a video summarizing the findings of its investigation:

135 Dead Civilians

Israel’s four-day bombardment of Rafah killed 135 civilians at the least (perhaps over 200), including 75 children (56% children). Many more were injured, and hundreds of homes were destroyed or damaged. Some of these civilians were gunned down while fleeing.

“After Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was captured, Israeli forces appear to have thrown out the rule book, employing a ‘gloves off’ policy with devastating consequences for civilians,” Director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program Philip Luther said.

“The obligation to take precautions to avoid the loss of civilian lives was completely neglected. Entire districts of Rafah, including heavily populated residential areas, were bombarded without distinction between civilians and military targets,” Luther added.

In one of the cases discussed in the report, two one-ton bombs—the largest bomb employed by the Israeli air force—were dropped on a single-story building. Scores of civilians were near the building during the attack.

Targeting Medical Workers

The Amnesty report describes a scene in the August onslaught:

An ambulance carrying a wounded old man, woman and three children was struck by a drone-fired missile, setting it alight and burning everyone inside including medical workers to death. Jaber Darabih, a paramedic who arrived at the scene, described the charred remains of bodies with “no legs, no hands… severely burned.” Tragically, he later discovered that his own son, a volunteer paramedic was among those killed in the ambulance.

A doctor told Amnesty patients frantically fled a Rafah hospital during the bombardment. Some of the Palestinians running for their lives “were wheeled out on beds, many had intravenous drips still attached.”

“A young boy in a plaster cast dragged himself along the ground to get away,” Amnesty wrote.

“By attacking ambulances and striking near hospitals, Israel’s army displayed a flagrant disregard for the laws of war,” Luther stated. “Deliberately attacking health facilities and medical professionals amounts to war crimes.”

Collective Punishment

Amnesty suggests that the Hannibal Directive amounts to collective punishment of the population of Rafah. The leading human rights organization says public statements by Israeli army commanders and soldiers confirm that the campaign was an act of revenge for the capture of the soldier.

Palestinian witnesses say jets, drones, helicopters, and artillery pummeled roads, indiscriminately hitting pedestrians, ambulances, and vehicles.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “display[ed] a shocking disregard for civilian lives,” Luther said. “They carried out a series of disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate attacks, which they have completely failed to investigate independently.”

Amnesty even says the IDF’s utter disregard for damage posed to civilians in its Hannibal Directive suggests the attacks may have been intended to kill the captured soldier.

“In such an event you prefer a killed soldier rather than a soldier in enemy hands, like [Gilad] Shalit,” an Israeli officer said, referring to a captured Israeli soldier who was exchanged for 1,027 prisoners in 2011.

Lieutenant Goldin was declared dead by an Israeli rabbinical court and buried on August 2, but the Israeli military continued its relentless attack on Rafah for two more days.

“All this evidence indicates that Israeli forces committed war crimes in Rafah and possible crimes against humanity” Amnesty wrote, “and they must now be held to account.”

The human rights organization created a video summarizing the findings of its recent investigations on Israel’s attack on Gaza:

US Complicity

The report also notes several times that US-made weapons, munitions, and equipment were used in strikes that killed or injured unarmed civilians, including children and paramedics, some of whom were fleeing.

The Israeli military employed warplanes, Apache helicopters, bombs, Caterpillar armored bulldozers, and Hellfire missiles that were made in or provided by the US.

During its attack on Gaza, the US senate also voted unanimously to give full support to Israel.

The US government gives over $3 billion per year to Israel in military aid alone. Since Israel began its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, the US has given it over $100 billion in military aid.

Expert Analysis

Amnesty’s report, “‘Black Friday’: Carnage in Rafah during 2014 Israel/Gaza conflict,” is based on hundreds of videos, photos, and satellite images analyzed by experts, using advanced geo-synching and architectural modeling techniques, such as scrutinizing shadows and smoke in multiple videos to determine time and location of attacks.

These materials were also cross-referenced with eyewitness testimony from civilians, medics, journalists, and human rights observers.

A research team from Goldsmiths, University of London conducted the investigation with the leading human rights organization.

A video describes how Amnesty’s research team investigated:

Similar Findings

Amnesty’s findings corroborate similar findings in numerous other investigations into Israel’s summer 2014 assault on Gaza, codenamed “Operation Protective Edge.”

An independent medical fact-finding mission in Gaza conducted by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel detailed Israel’s deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians, documenting the use of human shields, close-range murder of civilians, targeting of medics and ambulances, employment of unconventional weapons, and more.

The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict found similar results.

Another report by Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence found that soldiers were ordered to “fire at every person you see,” including civilians. Israeli soldiers recall shooting innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza because they were “bored.”

Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer based in New York City. His work has been featured in a variety of publications. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton. His website is

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23 Responses

  1. lysias on July 29, 2015, 4:27 pm

    Max Blumenthal discusses this episode in The 51 Day War. His account of events is basically the same.

  2. just on July 29, 2015, 4:28 pm

    Ben~ I’ve just finished watching the ca 15 minute video Black Friday by AI and I didn’t see it linked in your piece. If I missed it, please forgive me for re-posting it.

    Going back to read your piece in detail. Thanks.

    (Hope that Fatou Bensouda et al, and the US admin and Congress is paying attention…nah.)

    • just on July 29, 2015, 5:17 pm

      Thanks for your tremendous report on this, Ben.

      I am deeply grateful to Amnesty International, their team, and the people who worked with them for actually doing this difficult and unprecedented (afaik) labor in this project.

      Now it’s up to see if the PTB will do their jobs. I really can’t believe that admitting to willful blindness, complicity, and then changing course is impossible. How can we tell others that they are doing wrong when we are doing much worse, for far longer?

      Is it that hard to ‘do the right thing’, finally?

  3. Citizen on July 29, 2015, 4:51 pm

    Always good to know what I pay for with my US tax paid.

  4. amigo on July 29, 2015, 5:13 pm

    It is very very hard to watch this knowing the murdering zionist regime laughs at the world and gives us the finger and will probably do it again.

    And all these murderous acts carried out in the name of the victims of the Holocaust.

    What would they say???.

  5. Kay24 on July 29, 2015, 5:36 pm

    When it came to the part of America’s complicity I felt shame and anger. Not only do we drop bombs on civilians, we also give arms and ammunition to rogue states who do the same.

    I am sick of these investigations and reports, the finger wagging, condemnation, and then the usual silence. Everything fizzles out and the criminals get away with horrendous crimes against humanity.

  6. Sulphurdunn on July 29, 2015, 6:08 pm

    I live in a small rural county in Appalachia with a population of 55 thousand people. Gaza is one-fourth the size of my county and has a population of 1.7 million people. I don’t see how you could hardly throw a rock there and not hurt someone. What the IDF did in Gaza is about the same as what would have happened had Hamas done the same to Tel-Aviv. But Hamas lacks the military capability to do that. Proportionality, I believe, is what was ignored by the IDF in Gaza.

    • just on July 29, 2015, 6:26 pm

      “Proportionality” is a part of it, but hardly the entirety of it.

      Not at all.

  7. JLewisDickerson on July 29, 2015, 9:57 pm

    RE: When Hamas fighters captured an Israeli soldier and took him into a tunnel, the Israeli military initiated the “Hannibal Directive,” unleashing what Amnesty described as “massive firepower in the neighborhood surrounding the tunnel, despite the risk to civilians and the captured soldier.” ~ Ben Norton

    JUST A (NOT ENTIRELY RANDOM) THOUGHT: Might Israel’s “Hannibal Directive” be the prelude to a new “Masada” [e.g., the “Samson Option” (i.e., the ‘Hannibal Directive’ writ large)]?
    That’s a very scary thought! ! !

  8. ckg on July 29, 2015, 10:07 pm

    Chris Hedges wrote an excellent piece this week for thruthdig titled Why I Support the BDS Movement Against Israel in which he says about the 51-day siege, “Children were burned with white phosphorous…” Is there evidence that the IAF use white phosphorous in 2014, or only in 2008-09?

  9. JLewisDickerson on July 29, 2015, 10:16 pm

    RE: Israel carried out war crimes and “possible crimes against humanity” in its attack on Rafah, Gaza from 1-4 August, according to a new report by Amnesty International.” ~ Ben Norton

    THE HABARIST SEZ: But . . . but . . . but six million of Europe’s Jews died for Israel’s sins, much like Jesus died for the sins of Christians! ! !

  10. Marnie on July 30, 2015, 12:35 am

    I think it should be clear to all that the United States will never, ever do the right thing. The United States is complicit in Israel’s war crimes and continues to be complicit. If Israel goes down, the US will go down and how many senators or US presidents are going to go along with that? I think it’s past the time to look to the United States to do anything that doesn’t serve their partners in crime or themselves. I used to believe that somehow the US was different, better somehow than other countries. I s’pose a lot of that is from being raised on that “greatest country in the world” propaganda taught at home, school and the most influential of all the TV (or idiot box as my mom would say), so it’s got to be true, right? I see the same propaganda here, in the schools, in people’s home, at the workplace and on the TV. Maybe every country is that crazy, I don’t know. But on these pages the truth about the US is there in black and white and very hard to miss. I don’t look for the United States to do anything except what they’ve been doing for almost a half century, which will continue to put Americans in harm’s way and do the greatest damage to Americans and their most valued treasure – their children. How many more times are young men and women going to march to another nation’s tune to a war they have no interests in and go to battle against people who’ve never threatened them, let alone harmed them. How much longer will America’s elected officials continue to serve the state of Israel? Or an American businessman write the speeches for the leader of a rogue, hostile, nuclear nation, a speech that’s meant for American audiences, not Israelis? Because Americans are basically seen as being dumb as a sack of hammers, they’ll believe any fuckin’ thing, especially if it’s out of the mouth of a slick, fast-talking SOB who sounds like he’s a next-door neighbor. I love the United States, the beauty, the people, but hate the government. It is not of the people or for the people. At least, not American people.

    The United States gov’t. does not now and truthfully probably never has had the moral integrity and will to do the right thing. I can’t look at the US as being anything more than a puppet, and a puppet can only do what the puppetmaster allows.

  11. Blownaway on July 30, 2015, 1:20 am

    But these were Palestinians that were killed that’s not a war crime ever. Does anyone really think the ICC can bring justice to the Palestinian men women and children? It will take years for anything to happen if at all

  12. PauldeRooij on July 30, 2015, 3:23 am

    After reading Norman Finkelstein’s devastating analysis of Amnesty’s reports one can’t take this tainted and penetrated organization seriously. Maybe AI’s latest press release had all to do with countering Finkelstein’s critique; now they can say, see, look what we have said here. Too little, too late, and it is all tainted — Amnesty cannot utter anything that is a serious accusation (it is all prefaced with tentative statements and words like “may”), or recommend its supporters to do anything that has some material effect, e.g., recommend a boycott.
    And will MondoW publish Amnesty’s next reports condemning Palestinians for defending themselves? AI is all too eager to condemn the Palestinian resistance, Hamas… In this case AI doesn’t use same lame or tentative accusations of war crimes like when they refer to Israel; when referring to Palestinians, AI issues unambiguous accusations. The point is: you can’t use the bits of Amnesty reporting dealing with Israeli crimes if they also publish materials that are seriously biased and injurious to the Palestinians. Amnesty cannot have it both ways, and MondoW should know better than to publish tainted rubbish. How about publishing reports written by Palestinian organisations like Mezan?

    • MHughes976 on July 30, 2015, 6:47 am

      I thought that Finkelstein showed that the Amnesty report should be treated with some caution but not that it was worthless. If Amnesty is about to condemn Palestinian self-defence, ie I suppose argue to the effect that there is nothing that they can do which is legitimate, then I think we should consider that argument very carefully.

      • PauldeRooij on July 30, 2015, 3:44 pm

        I suspect you didn’t read NF’s articles.

    • Qualtrough on July 30, 2015, 2:51 pm

      PauldeRooij – It is simply amazing how HRW, the UN, Medicins sans Frontieres, Amnesty International, and so on do such good work elsewhere but when it comes to IP issues they always seem to find fault with Israel. It can only be due to antisemitism, not anything Israel does, right?

  13. K Renner on July 30, 2015, 11:27 am

    Ha ha ha look at that whinging, morally repugnant POS in the comments section on the Amnesty video.

    “Amnesty is a tool for terror”– blow it out your ass, you Palestinian-denying, IDF-apologist freak.

  14. Bornajoo on July 31, 2015, 6:31 am

    Nothing new here. My brother, when he was a younger brainwashed idiot, volunteered to serve in the IDF and was sent to Lebanon in 1982. They did exactly the same there. Indiscriminate bombing and shelling and “shoot anyone and everyone”. The only difference between then and now is that they have just got better at killing even more innocent people in a shorter period of time using even more devastating weapons

    Yet it doesn’t matter how many times it’s reported or by whom, they just get away with it every single time and will continue to do so until they are forced to pay for the consequences of their actions. That will only happen when support from the USA, their enabler, finally stops

    Thank you Ben

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