By Ghadeer Ahmed and Adham Youssef
A new Amnesty International report on the war between Israel and Hamas, which took place between 8 July and 26 August, states that Israeli forces acted with “callous indifference” in killing “scores of Palestinian civilians in attacks targeting houses full of families”.
The report, titled “Families Under the Rubble”, was released by Amnesty to document serious violations of international humanitarian law, “including unlawful killings and injuries to civilians and destruction of civilian property, both by Israel and by Hamas and Palestinian armed groups”.
While the report mentions that Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip fired thousands of rockets against civilian areas in Israel, the main focus is on the actions of the Israeli military. The report accuses the Israel Defense Force of using “excessive force”, which resulted in attacks on 18,000 housing units and the deaths of at least 2,192 Palestinians, including 519 children.
“Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International.
Luther added that “even if a fighter had been present in one of these residential homes, it would not absolve Israel of its obligation to take every feasible precaution to protect lives of civilians”.
The report cited cases where missile attacks caused the death of multiple numbers from one family.
Muhammad Al-Hallaq, a survivor interviewed in the report, said he had lost seven family members. “We heard an explosion at the house, and the rubble was everywhere: everything was black. The walls fell down, we couldn’t see anything, and we couldn’t even breathe,” said Al-Hallaq.
Another survivor from the Al-Hallaq family, Ayman Haniyeh, described what happened to his house after the missile attacks: “All I could remember are the bits and pieces I saw of bodies, teeth, arms, insides, everything scattered and spread”.
The report mentioned that “Israeli officials failed to give any justification for carrying these attacks,” adding that Amnesty has not been able to identify any possible military target in the destroyed houses.
“It appears that the attacks directly and deliberately targeted civilians or civilian objects, which would constitute war crimes.”
Amnesty was not able to send researchers to Gaza and substituted them with local field workers, as both Egyptian and Israeli forces refused to allow Amnesty researchers to enter the Gaza Strip, despite the organisation’s repeated requests.
Amnesty recommended that the alleged war crimes should be presented to the International Criminal Court (ICC).