Justice for victims of war crimes in Gaza conflict

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Ibrahim Khader/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

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.

Khalil Abed Hassan Ammar, who lost three of his four children in an Israeli attack on their Gaza City home on 20 July 2014.
We couldn’t hear the kids, their voices had completely gone. That’s when I realized they were all dead.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Mohammed Abu Duba, 20, whose father and brother were killed in a strike on the Mashrou’ Amer area of Rafah on 2 August 2014.
“It was unrecognizable as our area. They weren’t our streets… There was not a single undamaged building.”
An Israeli self-propelled howitzer fires a shell to Gaza Strip from southern Israel on 1 August 2014. An Israeli self-propelled howitzer fires a shell to Gaza Strip from southern Israel on 1 August 2014.
Albert Sadikov/Xinhua Press/Corbis
4 August 2014: a Palestinian woman passes by the rubble of destroyed houses following Israeli strikes in Rafah, Gaza. 4 August 2014: a Palestinian woman passes by the rubble of destroyed houses following Israeli strikes in Rafah, Gaza.
Associated Press

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.
Iyad Ghaboun, a Rafah resident.

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

Using witness accounts, satellite images, plume and smoke cloud analysis and much more, we recreate events of the four days in Rafah, and highlight strong evidence of war crimes committed by Israeli forces.
WATCH THE FILM
Palestinians mourn the death of a relative, who died when a UN school used as a shelter for internally displace people came under Israeli shelling in the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip, 30 July 2014. Palestinians mourn the death of a relative, who died when a UN school used as a shelter for internally displace people came under Israeli shelling in the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip, 30 July 2014.
© OLIVER WEIKEN / EPA
A Palestinian boy writes on a shrapnel riddled backboard at the heavily damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Gaza City's al-Shejaea neighborhood on August 5, 2014. A Palestinian boy writes on a shrapnel riddled backboard at the heavily damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Gaza City's al-Shejaea neighborhood on August 5, 2014.
© MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images
A Palestinian women cries sitting next to her son in their house which was badly damaged in an overnight air strike by Israeli Defense Forces, 17 July 2014. A Palestinian women cries sitting next to her son in their house which was badly damaged in an overnight air strike by Israeli Defense Forces, 17 July 2014.
EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN

TWEET NOW!

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.

.@John Kerry USA must tell Israel and Palestine to investigate war crimes #50Days4Gaza

Tweet this now!

  
.@PHammondMP UK must tell Israel and Palestine to investigate war crimes #50Days4Gaza

Tweet this now!

.@HonRobNicholson Canada must tell Israel and Palestine to investigate war crimes #50Days4Gaza

Tweet this now!

SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Black Friday: read the evidence

We’ve worked with the research team at Forensic Architecture to analyse what happened in Rafah, and show how Israeli forces carried out disproportionate attacks in densely populated residential areas.
READ THE REPORT

The conflict in numbers

Source: UN OCHA/Protection Cluster and OHCHR

2,251

Palestinians killed, including 1,462 civilians, 551 of whom were children

11,200+

Palestinians injured, including more than 3,400 children

6

civilians in Israel killed by mortars or rockets fired from Gaza

A Palestinian man looks at a house destroyed by Israeli Defense Forces during an overnight air strike in Gaza City, 16 July 2014. A Palestinian man looks at a house destroyed by Israeli Defense Forces during an overnight air strike in Gaza City, 16 July 2014.
EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN
Two Palestinian girls run past a destroyed ambulance car in Gaza, July 2014. Two Palestinian girls run past a destroyed ambulance car in Gaza, July 2014.
EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN

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.
Tawfiq Abu Jame’

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.”

MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty 
Jawad Budier, a Gazan paramedic whose colleague was killed when an Israeli shell hit their ambulance in Beit Hanoun on 25 July 2014.
I believe I was directly targeted. [Israel] does not discriminate between rocks or trees or human beings.
Palestinian paramedics lift the body of a man from the Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, Gaza, July 2014. Palestinian paramedics lift the body of a man from the Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, Gaza, July 2014.
EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Rockets being fired from the Gaza strip into Israel Rockets being fired from the Gaza strip into Israel
JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

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.
Amnesty International

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

Almost 500,000

people displaced during the war; some 100,000 still without a permanent home one year later

20

schools, kindergartens and colleges completely destroyed; hundreds of others damaged

Hospital graphic Hospital graphic

117

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.

EPA