After an exhaustive investigation, the human rights group Amnesty International has concluded that Palestinian militants also committed war crimes against Israel including the accidental killing of some Palestinians. The human rights group has already issued an extensive report on the war crimes committed by Israel during the conflict and again urges the United Nations to investigate both sides
By Ray Hanania
Amnesty International has released a new report that slams Hamas and Palestinian armed militants for committing warcrimes during the Israeli-provoked seven week conflict conflicts last summer and urged the United Nations to investigate attacks by both sides.
Israel has refused to cooperate with the United Nations, which created Israel in 1948, and has denounced the UN as being “biased.” This latest investigation by Amnesty International has only added more pressure to force Israel to accept an investigation of the conflict on both sides.
The International human rights group has previously slammed Israel’s military, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for committing war crimes. During the war, Israeli forces killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 500 children and teenagers. The vast majority were civilian deaths. And more than 100,000 Palestinians were made homeless.
Palestinian rockets took the lives of 6 civilians in Israel including one non-Israeli visitor from Thailand. During the fighting, 66 Israeli soldiers were killed in military clashes.
The Amnesty report criticizes the Palestinians for the firing of rockets into Israel in response to Israeli military assaults. The rockets were uncontrolled and the firings were indiscriminate and in most cases missed population and military areas.
Israel has claimed that it attacked Gaza because of the rocket attacks, but during three wars initiated by Israel in the Gaza Strip since 2008, all three were begun when Israel launched attacks at Palestinians militant targets. The August 2014 conflict began in response to the killing of three Israeli teenagers, which was followed immediately by the burning alive of a Palestinian child.
“The Palestinians may have committed war crimes but if they did, they did not even come close to the war crimes committed by Israel’s soldiers and settlers who engaged in attacks against Palestinian civilians during the same period,” one Palestinian observer wrote about the conflict and Amnesty reports.
Clearly, the Palestinian response to Israel was far weaker and less severe than the excessive force used by Israel against the Palestinians. More than 10,000 homes were destroyed and most of the 100,000 refugees remain homeless in the Gaza Strip. To view photographic reports on the Israeli attacks by war award winning photograph Mohammed Asad, click here.
Israel has refused to acknowledge the Amnesty International Report condemning its military assaults but it is expected Israel will use the new report slamming Hamas militants in a political propaganda move to rally extremist activism in Israel and in the U.S. Congress. Hamas officials have also refused to acknowledge their war crimes against Israel.
The Amnesty report also confirms that in at least one case during the seven weeks of fighting, a Hamas launched rocket misfired and took the lives of 13 Palestinian civilians, including 11 children, in the Al-Shati refugee camp.
“During the Gaza/Israel conflict in July and August 2014, Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel, in many cases directed towards Israeli civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international law,” the report states.
“Six civilians were killed in Israel, and others wounded, while civilian property was damaged. The conduct of Palestinian armed groups, including firing from residential areas and using indiscriminate munitions that cannot be accurately directed at a military target, also endangered civilians in Gaza: on 28 July, 11 children and two adults were killed in Gaza’s al-Shati refugee camp, apparently as a result of a rocket fired from Gaza,” the Amnesty International report continues.
Last February, Amnesty International also released a scathing 87-page criticism of Israeli war crimes targeting Palestinian children. Click here to read the story.
Here is the statement issued by Amnesty International, which examined charges filed by both sides against each other during the conflict:
Amnesty Report: Palestinian armed groups killed civilians on both sides in attacks amounting to war crimes
Palestinian armed groups displayed a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians by repeatedly launching indiscriminate rockets and mortars towards civilian areas in Israel during the conflict in July and August 2014, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.
Unlawful and deadly: Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict provides evidence that several attacks launched from inside the Gaza Strip amount to war crimes. Six civilians in Israel, including a four-year-old boy, were killed in such attacks during the 50-day conflict. In the deadliest incident believed to have been caused by a Palestinian attack, 11 children were among 13 Palestinian civilians killed when a projectile fired from within the Gaza Strip landed in the al-Shati refugee camp. Click to read report.
“Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict killing and injuring civilians. In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
All the rockets used by Palestinian armed groups are unguided projectiles which cannot be accurately aimed at specific targets and are inherently indiscriminate; using such weapons is prohibited under international law and their use constitutes a war crime. Mortars are also imprecise munitions and should never be used to attack military targets located in or near civilian areas.
“Palestinian armed groups must end all direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks. They must also take all feasible precautions to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip from the effects of such attacks. This includes taking all possible measures to avoid locating fighters and arms within or near densely populated areas,” said Philip Luther.
At least 1,585 Palestinian civilians, including more than 530 children, were killed in Gaza, and at least 16,245 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by Israeli attacks during the conflict, some of which also amounted to war crimes.
“The devastating impact of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians during the conflict is undeniable, but violations by one side in a conflict can never justify violations by their opponents,” said Philip Luther.
“The fact that Palestinian armed groups appear to have carried out war crimes by firing indiscriminate rockets and mortars does not absolve the Israeli forces from their obligations under international humanitarian law. The war wrought an unprecedented level of death, destruction and injury on the 1.8 million people in the Gaza Strip, and some of the Israeli attacks must be investigated as war crimes.
“The Israeli and Palestinian authorities must both co-operate with the probes of the UN Commission of Inquiry and the International Criminal Court to end decades of impunity that have perpetuated a cycle of violations in which civilians on both sides have paid a heavy price.”
According to UN data, more than 4,800 rockets and 1,700 mortars were fired from Gaza towards Israel during the conflict. Out of the thousands of rockets and mortars fired, around 224 are estimated to have struck Israeli residential areas, as Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted many others.
The death of Daniel Tregerman, a four-year-old boy, on 22 August 2014 clearly illustrates the tragic consequences of using imprecise weapons such as mortars on civilian areas. His family had fled their home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz because of the fighting but returned the day before he was killed. Moments after the alarm sirens went off, a mortar launched from Gaza struck the family car parked outside the house. Daniel’s little sister who was also present watched him die before her eyes.
“My husband and son were in the living room and I was yelling for them to come into the shelter. Shrapnel [from the mortar] entered Daniel’s head, killing him immediately,” his mother, Gila Tregerman, told Amnesty International.
Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The briefing also highlights the Israeli authorities’ failure to adequately protect civilians in vulnerable communities during the conflict, particularly Bedouin villages in Israel’s Negev/Naqab region, many of which are not officially recognized by the Israeli government. Ouda Jumi’an al-Waj was killed by a rocket that struck the Bedouin village of Qasr al-Sir near the Israeli city of Dimona on 19 July.
Most Bedouin villages are classified as non-residential “open areas” by the Israeli authorities, so the Iron Dome system to intercept rockets does not operate there and there are no bomb shelters. More than 100,000 people live in Bedouin villages in southern Israel.
“Civilians living in Bedouin villages during the conflict were left vulnerable and exposed, one manifestation of the discrimination they face on a daily basis. The Israeli authorities must ensure everyone is given equal protection,” said Philip Luther.
Other civilians killed by attacks launched in Gaza included an agricultural worker from Thailand, Narakorn Kittiyangkul, who was killed when a mortar struck the tomato farm in southern Israel where he was working. Ze’ev Etzion and Shahar Melamed were killed in a mortar attack on Kibbutz Nirim on 26 August.
In the deadliest incident believed to have been caused by a Palestinian armed group during the conflict, 13 Palestinian civilians – 11 of them children – were killed when a projectile exploded next to a supermarket in the crowded al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza on 28 July 2014, the first day of Eid al-Fitr.
The children had been playing in the street and buying crisps and soft drinks in the supermarket at the time of the attack.
Although Palestinians have claimed that the Israeli military was responsible for the attack, an independent munitions expert who examined the available evidence on behalf of Amnesty International concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.
“Evidence suggesting that a rocket launched by a Palestinian armed group may have caused 13 civilian deaths inside Gaza just underscores how indiscriminate these weapons can be and the dreadful consequences of using them,” said Philip Luther.
Mahmoud Abu Shaqfa and his five-year-old son Khaled were seriously wounded in the attack. His eight-year-old son Muhammad was killed. “The rocket fell near the car… The whole car was pierced by shrapnel. A piece of shrapnel pierced me… My son [Khaled] came to me. He was screaming ‘Daddy get up, get up…’ My entire leg was torn open and my arm had been wrenched to my back.”
There are no bomb shelters or warning systems in place to protect civilians in Gaza.
The report also details other violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian armed groups during the conflict, such as storing rockets and other munitions in civilian buildings, including UN schools, and cases where Palestinian armed groups launched attacks or stored munitions very near locations where hundreds of displaced civilians were taking shelter.
“The international community must help prevent further violations by tackling entrenched impunity and by ending transfers to Palestinian armed groups and Israel of all arms and military equipment that could be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law,” said Philip Luther.
Amnesty International is calling on all states to support the UN Commission of Inquiry and the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over crimes committed by all parties to the conflict.
‘Nothing is immune’: Israel’s destruction of landmark buildings in Gaza, December 9, 2014
Families under the rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes, November 5, 2014