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Egypt opens Rafah border crossing, Amnesty calls for investigation into violations

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Death toll from the ongoing violence leaves 121 dead in Gaza; no deaths reported from Israel

Egypt exceptionally opened the Rafah border crossing, which connects the country to the Gaza Strip, after the death toll from the Israeli military operation in the Strip rose to 121 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.

The border crossing was opened Saturday to receive injured people and permit the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege since 2007, state-run MENA reported. The Israeli military launched an operation titled “Protective Edge” in the Strip on 7 July to “stop Hamas rocket fire at Israel”. Gaza’s Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf Al-Qedra released a list with the names and ages of 121 people who died in the operation, adding that over 900 people have been injured as of Saturday morning.

On Saturday morning, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) reported a “barrage of rockets” fired from Gaza towards central Israel. The IDF said it hit a total of 1,160 targets since the beginning of its operation and that Hamas has fired nearly 700 rockets in the past four days.

The IDF claims that there are approximately 10,000 rockets inside the Gaza Strip, including long range missiles that could reach up to 100 or 200 kilometres. The IDF said Hamas, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since 2007, alone has an arsenal of 6,000 rockets.

International human rights watchdog Amnesty International called on the “UN to immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups,” in a statement on Friday.  It added that pending the embargo, “all states must immediately suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to the parties”.

Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, said: “As the violence intensifies there is an urgent need for the UN to mandate an international independent fact-finding mission to Gaza and Israel to investigate violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.”

“This is the first crucial step towards ensuring that those who have committed war crimes or other serious violations can be held accountable,” he added.

The watchdog said most of the Palestinian deaths were “civilians who were not directly participating in hostilities”, while the IDF claims that Hamas uses “houses as command centres”.

Amnesty said that Israel has targeted civilian homes on the basis that they are family homes of Hamas operatives, but added: “However, in several such cases no evidence has emerged to indicate that the alleged ‘Hamas operatives’ were inside the homes at the time of the attack, that the homes were being used to store munitions, or otherwise were being used for military purposes.”

Amnesty called on Egypt and Israel to ensure that sufficient amounts of medical and humanitarian supplies are allowed into the strip and to facilitate the exit of anyone in need of urgent medical treatment. It added that “hospitals in Gaza are struggling to function with a growing influx of wounded civilians and depleted medical supplies as well as fuel and electricity shortages.”

Egypt had opened the Rafah border crossing exceptionally on Thursday, receiving 11 patients but closed the crossing on Friday without providing a reason, Gaza’s Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The Israeli military operation in Gaza began a week after the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found by the IDF near Hebron on 30 June. The three went missing for 18 days before their bodies were found, with the IDF blaming “Hamas terrorists” for their kidnap and murder.

Two days after they were found, the body of a 17 year-old Palestinian boy was found after he was burned alive.


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