On 8 July 2014, Israel launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip for the third time in less than six years.
Over 50 days, both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and other serious breaches of international law. To date, neither side has held anyone to account.
During the war, Israeli forces fired tens of thousands of artillery and tank shells into densely populated residential areas, and launched air strikes on homes across the Gaza Strip, killing families inside in many cases. They struck schools sheltering civilians and attacked hospitals and medical workers, including ambulance staff trying to evacuate the dead and wounded.
On the other side, Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of rockets and mortars towards Israel, and also stored and fired munitions from residential areas of Gaza. Hamas forces executed at least 23 people in Gaza they accused of “collaborating”, and arrested and tortured others.
Today, we’re calling on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to genuinely investigate all possible crimes and prosecute those responsible.
We couldn’t hear the kids, their voices had completely gone. That’s when I realized they were all dead.
“It was unrecognizable as our area. They weren’t our streets… There was not a single undamaged building.”
Black Friday: Carnage in Rafah
On 1 August 2014, Hamas fighters in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza strip, captured an Israeli officer and took him into a tunnel. What followed became one of the deadliest episodes of the war.
What we saw was not just war; it was like a meat machine making mincemeat from people without mercy.
The Israeli army implemented the Hannibal Directive, a controversial military command designed to deal with the capture of soldiers. It unleashed massive firepower in the neighbourhood surrounding the tunnel, despite the risk to civilians and the captured soldier. The four-day bombardment killed at least 135 civilians, injured many more and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes.
Palestinian witnesses described jets, drones, helicopters and artillery raining fire on road junctions, indiscriminately hitting vehicles, ambulances and pedestrians who had been returning home for a planned ceasefire. All this evidence indicates that Israeli forces committed war crimes in Rafah and possible crimes against humanity, and they must now be held to account.
Black Friday: watch what happened
The evidence is overwhelming. We cannot wait for more violence to destroy more lives – we need action now. Please tweet the three influential politicians below with our suggested tweets to keep the pressure on.
Black Friday: read the evidence
The conflict in numbers
Source: UN OCHA/Protection Cluster and OHCHR
Palestinians killed, including 1,462 civilians, 551 of whom were children
Palestinians injured, including more than 3,400 children
civilians in Israel killed by mortars or rockets fired from Gaza
Targeting homes and medics
The evidence suggests that the Israeli military had a deliberate policy of targeting family homes. They continued to target homes throughout the war, even after it became clear how many civilians were being killed. Over the 50 days, more than 19,000 homes were destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
Just one example is the Abu Jame’ family, whose three-storey home in Bani Suheila, east of Khan Younis, was bombed without warning by an Israeli aircraft on 20 July 2014, killing 25 family members. “Our house had nothing to do with the fighting,” Tawfiq Abu Jame’ told us. “No one from the family was involved in the resistance, not then, not ever.”
Our house had nothing to do with the fighting.
There is also a pattern of attacks on health workers and facilities. In some cases, the Israeli army repeatedly fired at clearly marked ambulances and paramedics wearing recognizable fluorescent vests.
Paramedic Mohammad al-Abadlah was killed by Israeli gunfire while attempting to rescue an injured man on 25 July 2014 in al-Qarara. “Suddenly we were being fired at directly,” his co-worker Hassan al-Attal told us. “My colleague screamed and said ‘I’ve been shot’… When colleagues got out to try to reach him, they too were fired at.”
I believe I was directly targeted. [Israel] does not discriminate between rocks or trees or human beings.
Have they genuinely investigated the crimes?
Over the past year, the Israeli and Palestinian authorities have conducted only limited investigations, which have not been independent or effective.
The Hamas authorities have said they are investigating the killings of alleged “collaborators” in Gaza. The Israeli military is looking into some of the alleged crimes by its forces, but such investigations in the past have only served to shield those responsible.
The Israeli and Palestinian authorities have conducted only limited investigations.
In both cases, they are claiming to investigate their own possible crimes, in processes that lack credibility.
Right now, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which investigates and prosecutes war crimes when governments are unwilling, is considering opening a full investigation into alleged war crimes committed by both sides. We now have an opportunity to move towards bringing those responsible to justice.
Destruction in Gaza: the numbers
Source: UN OCHA
people displaced during the war; some 100,000 still without a permanent home one year later
schools, kindergartens and colleges completely destroyed; hundreds of others damaged
hospitals, clinics and pharmacies damaged or destroyed
Justice for victims of war crimes
In late June, an independent UN Commission of Inquiry into the war found that both Israel and Palestinian armed groups had committed possible war crimes, confirming previous reports by local and international human rights organizations. It was an important step in the fight for justice. But now we need to keep the pressure on to make change happen and ensure the Commission’s recommendations are put into action.
Until now, some influential governments – in particular the USA, UK and Canada – have blocked moves which could press Israel and Palestine to take action. But today these states have the power to help ensure the Israeli and Palestinian authorities:
1. Genuinely investigate war crimes and other serious violations of international law
2. Prosecute those responsible in fair trials
3. Co-operate with the International Criminal Court.