Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out attacks that could constitute war crimes during the latest round of hostilities in the Gaza Strip, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
The watchdog of international rights investigation, released Tuesday, focused primarily on three Israeli airstrikes that killed dozens of civilians in areas where “there were no obvious military targets.”
Palestinian militant groups were also guilty of violating international humanitarian law by indiscriminately targeting civilians with more than 4,000 rockets and unguided mortars against Israeli population centers, HRW said. A separate report on the actions of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups is expected next month.
Some 254 people were killed in Gaza, a coastal enclave ruled by the Hamas armed group, during the 11-day war in May, the fourth large-scale military operation launched in the area by the Israeli state since the militants took control in 2007. .
At least 67 children and 39 women died, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 fighters, while Israel has claimed the number is much higher. Several Palestinians were also killed when rockets fired by armed groups fell short and landed on the strip. Thirteen people were killed in Israel: 12 civilians, including two children and a soldier.
Both sides’ long record of failing to investigate Gaza-related violations showed an urgent need for an international investigation, HRW said. The group asked the international criminal court to include the most recent fighting in its ongoing investigation on rights violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which began in March.
“Israel and the Palestinian authorities have shown little or no interest in addressing abuses committed by their forces, so national and global judicial institutions must step up to break the vicious cycle of illegal attacks and impunity for war crimes.” Gerry simpson, the organization’s associate director of crisis and conflict, said in a statement.
The New York-based group said Israel had denied its investigators access to the Gaza Strip. The report was based on local field investigators, satellite images, expert reviews of photos of munitions fragments, and 30 interviews with witnesses and relatives of victims conducted remotely.
It found that in three conspicuous cases, “Israeli forces carried out attacks in Gaza in May that devastated entire families with no apparent military targets nearby.”
The attacks included a series of attacks on May 16 on a central street in Gaza City, which destroyed three apartment buildings and killed 44 civilians; a May 10 explosion that killed eight people, including six children, near the city of Beit Hanoun; and an airstrike on May 15 in the Shati refugee camp that killed 10 people, including two women and eight children.
HRW said it found no evidence that any of those killed in the three investigated attacks were combatants, and there was no evidence of military activity at any of the sites.
In a statement, the Israeli army said the attacks had targeted military objectives and that it took numerous precautions to avoid harming civilians.
“While terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip deliberately incorporate their military assets into densely populated civilian areas, the IDF takes all possible measures to minimize, as much as possible, damage to civilians and civilian property,” he said.
Earlier this year, HRW also accused Israel of committing the international crimes of committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution, the first major international rights body to bring such charges.
After decades of warnings that entrenched control over Palestinian life could lead to crimes against humanity, the organization said it had discovered that the “threshold” had been crossed.
In response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry accused HRW of a “long-standing anti-Israel agenda” and said the report was a “propaganda pamphlet” that “had no connection to the facts or reality on the ground.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism