‘Disproportionate & indiscriminate attacks’: Amnesty accuses Israel of Gaza war crimes

Israeli forces committed “disproportionate” and “indiscriminate” attacks that killed “scores of civilians” in the city of Rafah, Gaza, Amnesty International said in a report which was immediately slammed as “fundamentally flawed” by Israel.

Between 135 and 200 civilians were killed in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip in an intensive use of firepower by Israel, which lasted from August 1 to 4, 2014, according to Amnesty International report dubbed ‘Black Friday: Carnage in Rafah’.  

“There is overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets and in vehicles and injured many more,” says the Amnesty, which together with Forensic Architecture, a research team from Goldsmiths, University of London have presented a detailed reconstruction of the events in the city.

The blast of an Israeli air strike, seen from Khirbet al-‘Adas, eastern Rafah, on 1 August 2014 at 7.33am. © Private.

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The watchdog says that violations committed by IDF include “repeatedly firing artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas during the attacks” on Rafah.

“In some cases, there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.”

According to Amnesty, Israeli forces performed “serious violations of international humanitarian law and constituted grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention or other war crimes.”

“Israeli army commanders and officers can operate in confidence that they are unlikely to be held accountable for violations of international law due to the pervasive climate of impunity that has existed for decades. This is due, in large part, to the lack of independent, impartial and effective investigations.”

A Palestinian family returning to their home in eastern Rafah during the ceasefire, with the ruins of the house of the Abu Omran family in the background, on 1 August 2014 around 8am. © Private.

However, Israeli authorities “failed to conduct genuine, effective, and prompt investigations into any of the allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

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Amnesty International, however, wasn’t allowed to Gaza in August 2014 by Israeli authorities and is not allowed there now, but the group has managed to collect the information from witnesses of the attacks, Philip Luther, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, told RT.

“We looked at hundreds of photographs, hundreds of video clips as well as identifying satellite images that had very high resolution as showed the destruction in Rafah as it was taking place.”

According to Eyal Weizman, principal investigator of Forensic Architecture, his group goes into the warzones or places where human rights were violated or war crimes were alleged to have taken place and “look at traces the dead violence leaves on building.”

“A 3-D model of Rafah allow us to time every photograph in which we see a shadow mark on. You can cross-reference images and view where the strike happened,” he told RT.

‘Hysteria of children, destruction & mushroom clouds’: Rafah civilians describe attacks

Amnesty spoke to many Rafah civilians who returned to their homes before the strikes as Israel announced a ceasefire on the Gaza Strip. They described drones, helicopters and artillery raining fire at pedestrians, cars and even ambulances which were attempting to help the wounded.

“You see the hysteria of the children, destruction, and mushroom clouds, and you try to get as far away from them as you can,” said father of two Wa’el al-Namla.

A collage of photographs shows the aftermath of the Israeli air strike on al-Tannur, in Rafah. © Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

One more civilian Saleh Abu Mohsen told that when attacks started people “were running away from their homes in terror.”

“People were barefoot, women were running with their heads uncovered, it was a very difficult scene,” he added.

A grieving mother Abdel-Rahim Lafi described to the watchdog how her son died right in front of her during the assault

“My son Yehya and I left the house. We reached the Abu Youssef al-Najjar roundabout when the first missile fell about 13 meters ahead of us… I fell and was injured in my right leg. When I looked next to me I found my son. He looked up at me for seconds and died immediately after.”

A Pléiades satellite image of eastern Rafah, taken on 14 August 2014 at 11.50am, is marked with air strike craters (large red dots) and artillery craters (small red dots) and the resulting intensity of attacks (shades of red). © CNES 2014, Distribution AIRBUS DS, all rights reserved.

Israel slams Amnesty report as ‘fundamentally flawed’

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has slammed the Amnesty International report on IDF crimes in Gaza as ‘fundamentally flawed”, adding that “once again” the watchdog has shown “its compulsive obsessiveness toward Israel.”

“The methodology that the report is based upon is also fundamentally flawed, and brings into serious question Amnesty’s professional standards,” said the statement from the ministry, adding that it used “uncorroborated testimonies” of Palestinians.

The report doesn’t take into consideration “any potential biases or coercion by Hamas authorities, or simply the fact that individuals caught in the middle of combat are limited in their capacity to know the reasons, methodologies and intentions of the fighting parties,” added the ministry.