Israel/Gaza: likely war crimes by Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups
Israeli attacks on residential towers in Gaza are collective punishment of Palestinians, while Palestinian rockets are unguided and inherently indiscriminate
Active ICC investigation could mean both sides held responsible for war crimes
‘We haven’t slept a wink, the strikes have been non-stop’ - resident of 14-storey residential tower block in Gaza
Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza must not repeat violations of international humanitarian law that led to killing and maiming of civilians and destruction of homes and infrastructure in previous rounds of fighting, said Amnesty International.
Since 10 May, Palestinian armed groups have fired more than 1,500 rockets toward civilian areas in central Israel and towns near the Gaza border, killing and injuring civilians.
Israeli forces have carried out numerous airstrikes killing and injuring civilians in Gaza, and have also damaged or destroyed at least two residential buildings housing dozens of Palestinian families and one office building - attacks amounting to collective punishment of the Palestinian population.
In total, at least 53 people - including 14 children - in Gaza and seven people in Israel have been killed in the violence.
In Israel, a 50-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel and his 15-year-old daughter were killed in a suspected rocket attack in the village of Dohmosh outside the city of Lydda in central Israel. The community does not have access to shelters, and the alarm system of sirens warning of oncoming projectiles from Gaza does not function in these communities.
Amnesty has repeatedly condemned indiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups.
In Gaza, Israeli forces carried out attacks on a number of residential buildings from the early hours of 11 May. One 13-storey high-rise residential building - Hanadi Residential Tower - was completely destroyed and reduced to rubble. Civilians had been warned to evacuate the area before it was hit. Al-Jawhara office building was also severely damaged and Al-Shurouq building was also destroyed on 12 May. Other buildings were damaged as specific apartments were targeted.
An attack targeting an apartment on the top floor of the seven-storey “Tiba Apartments” building killed one woman and her son, a 19-year-old with special needs, who lived on the floor below. An attack on the 14-storey residential tower called “al-Jundi al-Majhoul” killed three Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad.
One civilian resident of the “al-Jundi al-Majhoul” building said:
“The building was shaking crazily ... when we got to the windows … we saw everyone looking at us and then people screaming ‘vacate the building immediately’ because it was hit … we haven’t slept a wink, the strikes have been non-stop. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and this is her first war. I was terrified myself and did not know what to do to calm her. What drives me crazy, is that they can easily just target precisely whoever they want as they’ve done with our building, and yet they choose to level entire buildings to the ground. What does that tell you? I’m sure not an entire building is a security threat.”
Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:
“Even if part of a building is being used for military purposes the Israeli authorities have an obligation to choose means and methods of attack that would minimise risks posed to civilians and their property.
“Destroying entire multi-storey homes making tens of families homeless amounts to collective punishment of the Palestinian population and is a breach of international law.
“All sides in the conflict have an absolute obligation to protect civilians. They must remember that there is an active investigation before the International Criminal Court and must not assume they will enjoy past impunity for violations.
“Both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups have carried out war crimes and other violations with impunity. Israel has a deplorable record of carrying out unlawful attacks in Gaza, killing and injuring civilians including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Palestinian armed groups have also committed violations of international humanitarian law with impunity.
“Firing rockets which cannot be accurately aimed into populated areas can amount to a war crime and endangers civilian lives on both sides of the Israel/Gaza border.
“Deliberate targeting of civilian objects and extensive, unjustified destruction of property are war crimes.”
UN Security Council action needed
Amnesty is calling on the international community - including the United States - to publicly denounce violations of humanitarian law, and pressure all sides to the conflict to protect civilians. Amnesty is also calling on UN Security Council members to take a strong and public stand and immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups with the aim of preventing further serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by parties to the conflict.