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Damning Evidence of War Crimes in Gaza

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid wait to cross into Gaza from Egypt through Rafah. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

NEW YORK, Oct 23 2023 (IPS) - Amnesty International (AI), one of the leading human rights organizations, has accused Israeli forces of continuing “to intensify their cataclysmic assault on the occupied Gaza Strip.”

AI says it has documented unlawful Israeli attacks, including indiscriminate attacks, which caused mass civilian casualties and must be investigated as war crimes.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said Israeli forces, in their stated intent to use all means to destroy Hamas, have shown a shocking disregard for civilian lives.

“They have pulverized street after street of residential buildings killing civilians on a mass scale and destroying essential infrastructure, while new restrictions mean Gaza is fast running out of water, medicine, fuel and electricity”.

Testimonies from eyewitness and survivors highlighted, again and again, how Israeli attacks decimated Palestinian families, causing such destruction that surviving relatives have little but rubble to remember their loved ones by, said Callamard.

Families sheltering in an UNRWA school. Credit: UNICEF/Hassan Islyeh

AI said it spoke to survivors and eyewitnesses, analysed satellite imagery, and verified photos and videos to investigate air bombardments carried out by Israeli forces between 7 and 12 October, which caused horrific destruction, and in some cases wiped out entire families.

Here the organization presented an in-depth analysis of its findings in five of these unlawful attacks. In each of these cases, Israeli attacks violated international humanitarian law, including by failing to take feasible precautions to spare civilians, or by carrying out indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between civilians and military objectives, or by carrying out attacks that may have been directed against civilian objects.

“The five cases presented barely scratch the surface of the horror that Amnesty has documented and illustrate the devastating impact that Israel’s aerial bombardments are having on people in Gaza. For 16 years, Israel’s illegal blockade has made Gaza the world’s biggest open-air prison – the international community must act now to prevent it becoming a giant graveyard”.

“We are calling on Israeli forces to immediately end unlawful attacks in Gaza and ensure that they take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects. Israel’s allies must immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo given that serious violations under international law are being committed.”

Since 7 October Israeli forces have launched thousands of air bombardments in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 3,793 people, mostly civilians, including more than 1,500 children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Approximately 12,500 have been injured and more than 1,000 bodies are still trapped beneath the rubble.

In Israel, more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, have been killed and some 3,300 others were injured, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health after armed groups from the Gaza Strip launched an unprecedented attack against Israel on 7 October. They fired indiscriminate rockets and sent fighters into southern Israel who committed war crimes including deliberately killing civilians and hostage-taking. The Israeli military says that fighters also took more than 200 civilian hostages and military captives back to the Gaza Strip.

“Amnesty International is calling on Hamas and other armed groups to urgently release all civilian hostages, and to immediately stop firing indiscriminate rockets. There can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians under any circumstances,” said Callamard.

Hours after the attacks began, Israeli forces started their massive bombardment of Gaza. Since then, Hamas and other armed groups have also continued to fire indiscriminate rockets into civilian areas in Israel in attacks that must also be investigated as war crimes.

Meanwhile in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, at least 79 Palestinians, including 20 children, have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers amid a spike in excessive use of force by the Israeli army and an escalation in state-backed settler violence, which Amnesty International is also investigating.

Amnesty International is continuing to investigate dozens of attacks in Gaza. This output focuses on five unlawful attacks which struck residential buildings, a refugee camp, a family home and a public market. The Israeli army claims it only attacks military targets, but in a number of cases Amnesty International found no evidence of the presence of fighters or other military objectives in the vicinity at the time of the attacks.

Amnesty International also found that the Israeli military failed to take all feasible precautions ahead of attacks including by not giving Palestinian civilians effective prior warnings – in some cases they did not warn civilians at all and in others they issued inadequate warnings.

“Our research points to damning evidence of war crimes in Israel’s bombing campaign that must be urgently investigated. Decades of impunity and injustice and the unprecedented level of death and destruction of the current offensive will only result in further violence and instability in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” said Callamard.

“It is vital that the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court urgently expedites its ongoing investigation into evidence of war crimes and other crimes under international law by all parties. Without justice and the dismantlement of Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians, there can be no end to the horrifying civilian suffering we are witnessing.”

The relentless bombardment of Gaza has brought unimaginable suffering to people who are already facing a dire humanitarian crisis. After 16 years under Israel’s illegal blockade, Gaza’s healthcare system is already close to ruin, and its economy is in tatters.

Hospitals are collapsing, unable to cope with the sheer number of wounded people and desperately lacking in life-saving medication and equipment.

Amnesty International is calling on the international community to urge Israel to end its total siege, which has cut Gazans off from food, water, electricity and fuel and urgently allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

They must also press Israel to lift its longstanding blockade on Gaza which amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population, is a war crime and is a key aspect of Israel’s system of apartheid.

Finally, the Israeli authorities must rescind their “evacuation order” which may amount to forced displacement of the population.

IPS UN Bureau

 


  
 
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