Israel 'brazenly flouted laws of war' during Gaza offensive: Amnesty

Ahram Online, Wednesday 5 Nov 2014

Rights group says Israel targeted civilian homes with 'callous indifference', while also condemning Hamas' rocket-fire

Palestinians inspect the damage of their destroyed houses during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, July 26, 2014 (Photo: AP)

In a new report issued on Wednesday, Amnesty International accused Israel of committing acts that can be classified as war crimes during its July-August offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Amnesty's report – titled "Families under the Rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes" – said Israeli forces targeted houses full of families and killed "scores of Palestinians."

"Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused," said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Luther argued that "disproportioned attacks" on houses show that Israel's military tactics are "deeply flawed" and violate principles of international humanitarian law. Believing that "excessive loss of lives" could have been avoided, Amnesty accused Israel of not giving prior warning ahead of attacking homes in the coastal enclave.

The international rights organisation reported that at least 18,000 homes were either "destroyed or rendered uninhabitable" during the Israeli offensive, in addition to the killing of more than 1,500 Palestinians, including 519 children. Meanwhile, Amnesty said the Palestinian factions also committed war crimes as they fired "indiscriminate rockets" into Israel.

The 50-page report said Israel has continuously denied access to Gaza for international rights bodies, including Amnesty.

"The organisation has been forced to conduct its research for this report remotely, supported by two fieldworkers based in Gaza. Israel has also announced that it will not co-operate with the Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council," Amnesty said.

Amnesty called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories to the International Criminal Court in order to "investigate allegations of crimes under international law by all parties."

Palestinian and Israeli authorities have to comply with the Rome Statute and grant access to the ICC investigation authorities, the report stressed.

An international conference, held in Cairo in October, has amassed $5 billion in aid for the reconstruction of Gaza. Ahead of the conference,

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the destruction caused by the latest Israeli offensive was unbearable and that Israel should be held accountable.

He asked the international community to prevent Israel from launching any new attack on the enclave. Abbas said his government was in dire need of help to rebuild institutions that will be run by the new unity government.

The president also called for the opening of the Gaza border crossings.

"According to a plan prepared by the Palestinian government, reconstruction operations require $4 billion. The unity government will work on implementing the plan with the United Nations and civil society organisations," Abbas added.

Israel's assault on Gaza left more than 100,000 Palestinians displaced, with about 57,000 living in communal shelters.

The 50-day Israeli assault was halted on 27 August after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire was implemented by Israel and Palestinian factions.

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