Israel/OPT: Palestinian armed groups must be held accountable for civilian killings and abductions
‘Chilling’ videos show nightmarish scenes as armed men shot dead civilians and dragged away hostages
Israel must end its illegal blockade on Gaza as humanitarian situation becomes catastrophic
‘Every time I try and close my eyes, I remember the horror of the scene - bodies everywhere’ - Nova Music Festival survivor
‘Neither security nor justice will be achieved by a civilian bloodbath in Gaza and collective punishment’ - Agnès Callamard
Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have flagrantly violated international law and displayed a chilling disregard for life by carrying out cruel and brutal crimes, including mass summary killings, hostage-taking, and launching indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel, said Amnesty International.
With evidence still emerging of the horrors that unfolded in southern Israel after Saturday’s attack, Amnesty will continue its investigations to determine the full range of crimes committed under international law.
In Israel, more than 1,200 people - mostly civilians, including children - have been killed, and 2,400 have been injured since attacks began early on 7 October. In Gaza at least 1,200 people, including children, have been killed by Israeli military retaliation.
The recently-intensified Israeli blockade on Gaza which has completely disconnected water, electricity, food and fuel supplies is exacerbating an already catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel’s blockade amounts to collective punishment which is also a war crime.
Video footage analysed by Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab shows Palestinian fighters on the initial day of the attacks deliberately shooting at civilians and taking civilians hostage. In one of the most egregious incidents at the Nova Music festival, at least 260 civilians were killed, while others are still missing.
Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:
“Massacring civilians is a war crime and there can be no justification for these reprehensible attacks.
“We verified chilling videos which show armed men shooting at civilians and dragging people away as hostages. One disturbing video shows armed men parading a woman through central Gaza, like a scene from a nightmare.
“All civilians who were abducted, including children, must be released immediately.
“These crimes must be investigated as part of the International Criminal Court’s ongoing investigation into crimes committed by all parties in the current conflict.
“Israel’s well-documented record of war crimes does not excuse Palestinian armed groups’ horrendous actions, nor absolve them from upholding their obligations under international law to respect fundamental principles of humanity and protection of civilians.
“As Israeli forces’ retaliatory attacks pummel Gaza, Amnesty insists that neither security nor justice will be achieved by a civilian bloodbath in Gaza and collective punishment.”
Hamas war crimes
Attacks against Israel began with a barrage of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, followed by an incursion into Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. Thousands of rockets landed in several areas across central and southern Israel, reaching as far as Tel Aviv. These unlawful attacks killed both Israelis and Palestinians. They also hit unrecognised Palestinian villages in the Negev/Naqab region, killing at least six civilians, five of them children. These neglected communities already live in a precarious situation with no access to shelters.
In addition to horrific summary killings of civilians in several locations across southern Israel, at least 150 hostages have been taken into Gaza, including some children and foreign nationals, according to Israeli officials. The abduction of civilians is prohibited by international law and hostage-taking is a war crime. All civilians held hostage must be released immediately, unconditionally, and unharmed. All those held captive must be treated humanely, in accordance with international law and granted medical treatment.
Videos verified by Amnesty show Hamas fighters abducting and killing civilians in and around Israeli residential communities close to the Gaza Strip. In one example, videos from Be’eri kibbutz analysed by Amnesty show two men in military clothing shooting at close range at a car, killing the driver and two passengers, before entering the community. The three bodies are then filmed being taken out on a car by two armed men. Footage from later that day shows six men in military clothing taking away four civilians with their hands tied behind their backs. The lifeless bodies of these civilians appear in another video from the same location. Amnesty verified videos with similar shocking images, filmed in Kfar Aza kibbutz, in Re’im kibbutz and along Road 232, showing armed men shooting at close range at cars and at a civilian hiding in a bomb shelter.
Attack on Nova Music Festival
An incident with a particularly high civilian death toll on 7 October was the attack on the Nova Music Festival held near the Gaza border, where at least 260 people were killed. The attack on the festival began at around 7:00 am with a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza, followed by attacks by fighters from armed groups. Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab was able to verify the location and time of 18 videos, filmed mainly by survivors. At least one of the videos appears to have been filmed by members of the armed groups involved.
Seven verified videos show armed men shooting at civilians, while continuous gunshot sounds are heard in the background. Five videos show people trying to escape, including through a nearby field or by hiding behind bushes. In one video, an armed man is shooting directly at a civilian lying on the ground. In another video, armed men are firing directly at cars trying to escape the festival grounds. Five videos show people being taken hostage.
Amnesty spoke to one 22-year-old survivor, who said that as soon as the attack began he ran to a wooded area where he dug a hole with his bare hands and buried himself among the trees, using anything he could find to cover his body. He stayed there for six hours, during which time he heard constant shooting. At one point he raised his head enough to see fighters shooting fleeing people in the back.
“Then I could tell that they were throwing fuel everywhere to burn the area, I could hear and smell the burning. At that moment, I realised I had no choice - either I leave and get shot, or I am burned in this hiding place. I cannot sleep at night, and I can’t be alone. Every time I try and close my eyes, I remember the horror of the scene - bodies everywhere, people stuck in cars burning, the smell of blood’.”
Yaacov Argamani, whose daughter, Noa, was taken hostage, said he started to worry on Saturday morning after hearing sirens and was unable to reach Noa. He said:
“I felt that something was wrong. I had a bad feeling. I can’t explain it, I am a father, and you know parents when they feel something bad, we can’t explain it. So, I tried to contact her, but I couldn’t get hold of her.”
Yaacov contacted hospitals looking for his daughter, but they had no record of her. He later received a phone call from someone who said he’d seen a video of Noa being taken on a motorcycle taken into Gaza. He told Amnesty:
“I couldn’t believe it. I only believed it when later I saw more videos, where I could see her on a motorcycle and her boyfriend in a different vehicle next to her being taken into the Gaza Strip. I can’t stop thinking of her.”
Action needed to end recurrent atrocities
Amnesty is calling on the international community to take all necessary measures to ensure that the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians are fully protected, and to guarantee justice and reparation for victims. Amnesty is calling on Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli authorities to strictly abide by international humanitarian law: foremost by ensuring humanity in the conduct of hostilities, taking necessary precautions to minimise harm to civilians and civilian objects, and refraining from unlawful attacks and from imposing collective punishment on civilians.
Amnesty calls on all Palestinian armed groups in Gaza to release all civilian hostages unconditionally and immediately.
Amnesty also reiterates its call on Israel to end its 16-year-long illegal blockade on Gaza, starting by immediately suspending its recent increased restrictions. Israel must also end unlawful attacks that kill or injure civilians and destroy civilian homes and infrastructure, and the Israeli government should also refrain from inciting violence and tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, ensuring the safety of all civilians living under its control.
Legal framework and wider situation
In 2021, the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into the situation in the State of Palestine with a mandate covering crimes under international law committed by all parties in the current conflict, as well as the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians. Amnesty calls on the ICC prosecutor to expedite progress in the investigation and to include the recent crimes committed by all parties.
The latest attacks in Israel must be seen in the wider context of the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Amnesty also reiterates in the strongest possible terms that nothing can justify war crimes. Amnesty is insisting that the injustices and violations which are among the root causes of this violence must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Civilians will continue to pay a heavy price until Israel dismantles its system of apartheid against Palestinians, including its illegal blockade on Gaza.
In a 2022 report, Amnesty showed how Israeli forces have committed in Gaza (as well as in the West Bank and Israel) acts prohibited by the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Apartheid Convention, as part of a widespread and systemic attack against the civilian population with the aim of maintaining a system of oppression and domination over Palestinians, thereby constituting the crime against humanity of apartheid.