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Amnesty: Israel committed war crimes targeting family homes in Gaza

Amnesty International has accused the Israeli army of committing “war crimes” by targeting “houses full of families” in Gaza, attacks that killed “scores of Palestinian civilians.”

The new report published Wednesday, ‘Families under the Rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes’, includes eight examples of family homes being struck by Israeli forces “without warning” during ‘Operation Protective Edge’, killing more than 100 civilians including 62 children.

According to a press release by the global human rights group, their new report “reveals a pattern of frequent Israeli attacks using large aerial bombs to level civilian homes, sometimes killing entire families.”

The report highlights the catastrophic consequences of Israel’s attacks on homes, which have shattered the lives of entire families. Some of the homes attacked were overflowing with relatives who had fled other areas of Gaza in search of safety.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, said that Israeli forces had “brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”

Luther added that this “pattern” of “disproportionate attacks” indicates “Israel’s current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with the principles of international humanitarian law.”

In some of the cases documented in the report, Amnesty said it was unable “to identify any possible military target.” As such, the group wrote, “it appears that the attacks directly and deliberately targeted civilians or civilian objects, which would constitute war crimes.”

Even in those cases where “possible military targets” were identifiable, “the devastation to civilian lives and property caused in all cases was clearly disproportionate to the military advantages gained by launching the attacks.”

While the Israeli military made much of its tactics of warning residents ahead of strikes – a policy heavily criticised by human rights groups in its own right – Amnesty reported that “in all of the cases researched [for the report]…no prior warning was given to residents of the homes.”

In one example included in the report, survivors of an attack on the al-Hallaq family home “described horrifying scenes of strewn body parts amid the dust and chaos after three missiles struck the house.”

Ayman Haniyeh, one of the neighbours, described the trauma of trying to search for survivors: “All I can remember are the bits and pieces I saw of bodies, teeth, head, arms, insides, everything scattered and spread,” he said.

The report notes that “Israel has so far failed to even acknowledge any of the attacks detailed in the report and has not responded to Amnesty International’s requests for explanations of why each of these attacks took place.”

Amnesty is urging answers and accountability, with Luther commenting that “the onus is on Israeli officials to explain why they chose to deliberately flatten entire homes full of civilians, when they had a clear legal obligation to minimize harm to civilians and the means of doing so.”

Luther added: “What is crucial now is that there is accountability for any violations of international humanitarian law that have been committed. The Israeli authorities must provide answers. The international community must take urgent steps to end the perpetual cycle of serious violations and complete impunity.”

In the context of the report, Amnesty has renewed “its calls on Israel and the Palestinian authorities to accede to the Rome Statute and grant the ICC the authority to investigate crimes committed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)”, in addition to “calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Israel and the OPT to the ICC so that the prosecutor can investigate allegations of crimes under international law by all parties.”

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