July 27, 2021: Human Rights Watch has accused the Israel military of practicing “apparent war crimes” during the 11-day offensive in the Gaza Strip, which began on May 10 this year.
The International Organization for Human Rights (IOHR) concluded on Tuesday after an investigation into Israeli airstrikes that 62 Palestinians had been killed. It concluded that the attacks “had no clear targets in the surrounding area”.
The report also accused Palestinian armed groups of apparent war crimes by launching more than 4,000 colorless rockets and mortars at Israeli population centers. It said such attacks “violate the ban on deliberate or unprovoked attacks on civilians”.
The report focuses on Israeli actions during the fighting, and the group says it will issue a separate report in August on the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.
“Israeli forces launched an offensive in Gaza in May, destroying entire families without any clear military targets nearby,” said Gary Simpson, HRW’s director of crisis and conflict for the organization’s website. ”
The report noted Israel’s “constant reluctance to seriously investigate alleged war crimes”, with Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli civilian areas, and emphasizes the importance of the ongoing investigation by both sides through the International Criminal Court (ICC).
There was no immediate reaction to the report by the Israeli military, which has repeatedly said its attacks were aimed at military targets in Gaza.
Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, fired rockets at Israel after it ignored an ultimatum from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem to stand up its security forces after days of violence against Palestinian protesters.
Israeli security forces cracked down on protests against Israeli raids and attacks on worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Sheikh Jarrara threatened to deport dozens of Palestinian families in favor of Jewish settlers in the neighborhood.
Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets and mortars at Israel, while Israel says it hit more than 1,000 targets linked to armed groups in Gaza.
According to Gaza’s health ministry, some 260 people were killed in Gaza, including at least 67 children and 39 women. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.
The HRW report said the deadliest Israeli airstrikes on May 16 included a series of attacks on Al-Wahda Street in central Gaza City. The HRW said the airstrikes destroyed three apartment buildings and killed a total of 44 civilians, including 18 children and 14 women.
Twenty-two of those killed were members of a single family, the AlKawlaks. Israel has said the attacks were aimed at tunnels used by Hamas fighters in the area and suggested that the damage to homes was unintentional.
In its investigation, HRW concluded that Israel had used US-made GBU-31 correctly-guided bombs and warned any residents to evacuate the area prematurely. Did not It also found no evidence of military targets in the area.
“An attack that is not directed at a specific military objective is unlawful,” it wrote.
The investigation also looked at the May 10 bombing that killed eight people, including six children, near the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. He said the two were adult citizens. Israel has said the blast was caused by a faulty Palestinian rocket. But based on an analysis of the weapon’s remains and witness accounts, HRW said the evidence showed the weapon was “a type of guided missile.”
“Human Rights Watch found no evidence of a military target at or near the strike site,” it said.
The third attack took place on May 15, in which an Israeli airstrike destroyed a three-story building in the Gaza refugee camp. The attack killed 10 people, two women and eight children. HRW investigators determined the building was hit by an American-made missile.
Israel says senior Hamas officials were hiding in the building, but HRW said it had found no evidence of a military target in or around the area and called for an investigation. There was a legitimate military objective and “all possible precautions” were taken to avoid civilian casualties.
The May conflict was the fourth between Israel and Hamas since they took control of Gaza in 2007. Human Rights Watch, other human rights groups and UN officials have accused both sides in all conflicts of committing war crimes.
Earlier this year, HRW accused Israel of discriminating against Palestinians inside Israel, in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip because of its policies of discrimination and international crimes of oppression had been committed. Israel has denied the allegations.
In Tuesday’s report, HRW called on Israel to comply with international human rights law and to take “concrete and verifiable steps” to “investigate past abuses” and require security assistance from the United States.
It also called on the ICC to include the recent attack on Gaza in its ongoing investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israeli and Palestinian armed groups.
Israel does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and says it has the ability to investigate any possible wrongdoing by its military and that the ICC’s investigation is unfair and politically motivated.
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