A Human Rights Watch report released on July 27th has stated that previous airstrikes carried out by the Israeli military during an 11-day war in May, could have “amounted to war crimes.” The human rights organization has accused the Israeli military of being accountable for 62 civilian deaths and has also concluded that the Palestinian militants committed war crimes by launching 4000 unguided rockets at Israeli population centres. According to the report, these acts violate “the prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians.”
The 11-day war begun on May 10th earlier this year after Hamas fired rockets towards Jerusalem in support of the Palestinian protests against Israel. During the period of war, Hamas fired approximately 4000 rockets towards Israel, while Israel is said to have struck over 1000 targets supposedly linked to Gaza militants. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, during the 11-day war, 254 people were killed, including 67 children and 39 women. Hamas has acknowledged only 80 militant deaths, while Israel has claimed the number of deaths is much higher.
The Human Rights Watch investigation looked into the explosion on May 10th which killed eight civilians, including six children in the town of Beit Hanoun. The report deemed this to be a war crime and has called on the International Criminal Court to include these war crimes in the ongoing investigation regarding Israel and Palestinian militant groups. As well as this, the investigation concluded that Israel used U.S. made GBU-31 precision-guided bombs without warning residents in the surrounding areas to evacuate.
The Israeli military has recently issued a statement claiming that the causalities were caused by errant rocket fire launched by militant groups, not Israeli airstrikes. However, conclusions found in the Human Rights Watch investigation have shown evidence that there were no military targets in the vicinity. The report stated that an “attack that is not directed at a specific military is unlawful,” and therefore the actions of the Israeli military are considered to be a war crime.
Israel has been unwilling to participate or cooperate in the Human Rights Watch investigation, refusing to let the investigators enter Gaza. However, the investigators managed to use video footage to analyze evidence, as well as visiting sites of the strikes and carrying out interviews with Palestinians who had witnessed the Israeli attacks. Gerry Simpson, the associate crisis and conflict director at Human Rights Watch has stated that Israel’s “consistent unwillingness to seriously investigate alleged war crimes,” underscored the importance of an ongoing investigation into both sides by the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Watch hopes that through these accusations, Israel and Palestine militants will be held accountable for their actions.