Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza
A human rights organization in the US on Tuesday accused the Israeli military of carrying out attacks in Palestinian territories that “amount to war crimes” during an 11-day war in May against the besieged Gaza strip.
Human Rights Watch issued its report after investigating three Israeli airstrikes that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians. It said “there were no evident military targets in the vicinity” of the attacks.
The report also accused Palestinian resistance groups of launching attacks that violate “the prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians,” although the Palestinians launched rocket attacks in response to Israel’s illegal and unjustified aggression.
The report, however, focused on Israeli war crimes during the conflict.
“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 HRW.
He said Israel’s consistent unwillingness to seriously investigate war crimes underscored the importance of an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court, or ICC.
The Israeli military has falsely claimed its attacks were aimed at military targets and tunnels in Gaza.
The HRW report said the most serious Israeli attack took place on May 16, which involved a series of strikes on Al-Wahda Street, a central thoroughfare in downtown Gaza City.
The airstrikes destroyed three apartment buildings and killed a total of 44 civilians, HRW said, including 18 children and 14 women. Twenty-two of the dead were members of a single family, the al-Kawlaks.
The Israeli regime started a 12-day war against the already Tel Aviv-blockaded Gaza Strip on May 10. As a result of the brutal aggression, more than 250 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including 66 children, with more than 1,900 people wounded.
Gaza’s resistance groups, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in particular, responded to the aggression on the same day that it started targeting the enclave.
In its investigation, HRW concluded that Israel had used U.S.-made GBU-31 precision-guided bombs, and that Israel had not warned any of the residents to evacuate the area ahead of time.
HRW also found no evidence of military targets in the area. “An attack that is not directed at a specific military objective is unlawful,” it wrote.
The investigation also looked at a May 10 explosion that killed eight people, including six children, near the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It said the two adults were civilians.
“Human Rights Watch found no evidence of a military target at or near the site of the strike,” it said.
The New York-based group said that Israel refused to allow its investigators to enter Gaza. Instead, it said it relied on a field researcher based in Gaza, along with satellite images, expert reviews of photos of munitions fragments and interviews conducted by video and telephone.
The third attack HRW investigated occurred on May 15, in which an Israeli airstrike destroyed a three-story building in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp. The strike killed 10 people, including two women and eight children.
HRW investigators determined the building was hit by a U.S.-made guided missile. It said Israel has said that senior Hamas officials were hiding in the building. But the group said no evidence of a military target at or near the site and called for an investigation into whether there was a legitimate military objective and “all feasible precautions” were taken to avoid civilian casualties.
The May conflict was the fourth war between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group, which opposes Israel’s existence, seized control of Gaza in 2007. Human Rights Watch, other rights groups and U.N. officials have accused both sides of committing war crimes in all of the conflicts.
Early this year, HRW accused Israel of being guilty of international crimes of apartheid and persecution because of discriminatory polices toward Palestinians, both inside Israel as well as in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel rejected the accusations.
In Tuesday’s report, it called on the
United States to condition security assistance to Israel on it taking “concrete
and verifiable actions” to comply with international human rights law and to
investigate past abuses.
In April, HRW accused Israel of crimes against humanity by pursing policies of "apartheid" and persecution against Palestinians.
The word apartheid is often associated with South Africa. Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s.
The system was characterized by an authoritarian political culture based on white supremacy, which ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation's minority white population.