Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleges Israel violated international law in the recent conflict that left 260 Palestinians dead.
- Human Rights Watch says Israel is unwilling to investigate its possible war crimes
- Israel says it only hits military targets and when possible gives those uninvolved warning of attacks
- Civilians have told HRW there were no militants around their homes when missiles hit and they were given no warning to escape
HRW said it investigated three Israeli air strikes that killed 62 Palestinian civilians and found there was no evidence military targets were in the vicinity and that residents were not informed before at least one attack.
Under international humanitarian law, warring parties can target only military objectives and must take precautions to minimise harm to civilians, including by providing warning of a planned attack.
“Israeli forces carried out attacks in Gaza in May that devastated entire families without any apparent military target nearby,” said Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director at Human Rights Watch.
“Israeli authorities’ consistent unwillingness to seriously investigate alleged war crimes, as well as Palestinian forces’ rocket attacks toward Israeli population centres, underscores the importance of the International Criminal Court’s inquiry.”
In response to HRW’s findings, the Israeli military said it exclusively strikes military targets, assesses potential collateral damage and makes an effort to reduce harm to uninvolved individuals including, when possible, giving them prior warning.
The report stated the Israel Defence Force (IDF) said it was investigating a number of attacks that took place during the May fighting to determine whether its “rules had been breached”.
HRW said it would release a separate report into rocket attacks launched by Palestinian armed groups against Israel, which killed 12 civilians.
At the time of the conflict, the International Criminal Court said it was investigating the situation, but was yet to press charges against either of the parties.
Civilians say they were targeted without reason
As part of its investigation, HRW interviewed 30 Palestinians in person who witnessed Israeli attacks, were relatives of civilians killed, or were residents of areas targeted.
It also visited the site of four strikes, inspected remnants of munitions, and analysed satellite imagery, video footage, and photographs taken following the attacks.
One of the missiles exploded metres away from the home of the al Masri family, where Youssef al-Masri said he was with his brother Ibrahim at the time of the explosion.
“We immediately ran to our houses. I saw my two dead sons, Marwan and Ibrahim,” he told HRW, detailing the boys’ awful injuries.
HRW said all of those interviewed who saw or were affected by the attack said none of the people killed were members of an armed group.
A day later, an air-dropped munition struck the seven-story Tiba building, which HRW said Israel authorities had not explained.
Two people were killed, and Ahmad Salah told HRW he ran to the building after hearing the blast, and found a female family member had been killed while bathing.
Later that week, another strike destroyed a building in the al-Shati refugee camp, killing 10 people, including two women and eight of their children.
Like the previous strike, HRW said all of the people interviewed said they were not aware of militants being in or near the building at the time of the attack.
Abu Hattab lived in the building for 30 years with his family and said there was no warning before the missile hit.
“I ran back towards the smoke and saw it was my house. It was all rubble. I felt like everything was revolving around me,” he told HRW.