Israel/Gaza: All sides must protect civilians as conflict escalates
Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, including the military wing of Hamas, to ensure that civilian lives are protected as the conflict between the two sides escalates.
“All sides to the conflict have an absolute obligation under international humanitarian law to protect the lives of civilians caught up in the intensifying hostilities,” said Philip Luther, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Amnesty International urges the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas’ military wing and those overseeing it, to fully respect the laws of war. Israel must only carry out strikes on legitimate military targets and must exercise the utmost caution in the means and methods of attack, to minimize the risk to civilians and damage to civilian homes and infrastructure. Carrying out indiscriminate air strikes in densely populated areas or direct attacks on civilian homes will inevitably lead to the loss of civilian lives, in violation of international humanitarian law.”
Israel launched a military offensive, Operation “Protective Edge”, overnight, striking at least 50 sites in the Gaza Strip, and carrying out dozens more air strikes since the morning. At least 50 people, including children, have reportedly been wounded in Gaza as a result of Israeli military operations today, according to medics. Palestinian armed groups in Gaza have fired scores of indiscriminate rockets into southern Israel in recent days, and continued to do so on Tuesday.
As of the morning of Tuesday 8 July, more than 240 indiscriminate rockets had been fired from Gaza into southern Israel since 12 June, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned the firing of indiscriminate rockets, which cannot be aimed accurately at military targets. Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility for firing dozens of indiscriminate rockets on Tuesday.
“The firing of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza is a war crime that endangers civilians on both sides of the Gaza/Israel border. All indiscriminate rocket fire by these groups must cease immediately,” said Philip Luther.
“The civilian populations of both Israel and Gaza have experienced far too much tragedy, unnecessary bloodshed and loss of life in recent years, with no accountability. Both sides have an abysmal track record of violating international human rights and humanitarian law during armed conflict.”
The Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups have repeatedly failed to hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes and other serious violations of international law committed during previous rounds of fighting, in particular during the Israeli military operations “Pillar of Defense” in November 2012 and “Cast Lead” in December 2008 until January 2009.
Amid the renewed hostilities and in light of the continuing failure by both sides to provide accountability, Amnesty International is again calling for an international arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip.
“All states should immediately suspend transfers of weapons, munitions and related equipment to Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza,” said Philip Luther.
“States must send a clear message that they will not facilitate further violations of international humanitarian law.”
Mounting tensions over the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank have transformed into a full-blown conflict between Israel and armed groups in Gaza in recent days.
Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict must distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects, and direct attacks only at the former. Indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks are prohibited. The parties must take necessary precautions in attack to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects. They also must take all feasible precautions to protect civilians under their control from the effects of attacks.