Amnesty International: Strikes on Gaza high-rises amount to war crimes

Philip Luther says that Israel's actions were a collective punishment against the citizens of Gaza, "meant to destroy their already precarious livelihoods."

December 9, 2014 10:31
2 minute read.
gaza air strike

A Palestinian man looks through a broken window at the rubble of a mosque, which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in the central Gaza Strip July 12, 2014. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

The IDF's destruction of four high-rises in Gaza in the final days of a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas amount to war crimes that must be investigated, Amnesty International said on Monday.

Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program said the buildings were destroyed on purpose and had no military justification.

Luther said that Israel's actions were a collective punishment against the citizens of Gaza, "meant to destroy their already precarious livelihoods."

“Even if the Israeli authorities had good reason to believe that a part of a building was being used for military purposes, they had an obligation to choose means and methods of attack that would minimize harm to civilians and their property,” he said.

IDF Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Danny Efroni addressed criticism by Amnesty and others last week, saying there was no precedent for the extent to which Hamas systematically endangered civilians directly and indirectly as human shields during Operation Protective Edge this summer.

Efroni said that the army was internationally criticized – unfairly and for political reasons, in his opinion – for three aspects: the IDF’s striking of Hamas members’ private homes, the large cumulative number of civilian casualties, and the use of artillery in urban fighting.

Hamas members used their houses as command centers, in which they also gave orders regarding the firing of rockets at Israel, he said, adding that criticism of the IDF for hitting them would simply encourage Hamas to continue its illegal tactic.

Next, Efroni slammed the IDF’s critics for leaning hard on Israel, which at least tried to take precautions, as opposed to on Hamas, regarding the high civilian casualties.

There is no legal basis to judge the IDF as violating the laws of armed conflict simply on the volume of civilian deaths, he added.

Many Western armed forces have used artillery in urban settings and in some fighting situations. When there is no air power or infantry answer, artillery is necessary, even if it is more of a last resort, he concluded.

On November 5, Amnesty International slammed the state for “callous indifference” to civilians in alleged attacks on civilian homes.

Zoning in on eight cases, the report concluded that the IDF committed war crimes and presses Israel and “Palestine” to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court or for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the ICC.

NGO Monitor responded by criticizing Amnesty’s methodology both in the specific report and in general, saying the rights group lacked the military expertise and intelligence information to properly analyze the cases.

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