Amnesty International’s contentious Thursday report, claiming that the Ukrainian military endangered civilians with its tactics, saw the organization lambasted for promoting Russian propaganda. But it is the fighting that began a day later, between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, that threatens the human rights group’s global credibility.
Islamic Jihad is clearly using the exact same tactics that Amnesty International accused Ukraine of. If the NGO does not condemn the terrorist group for these actions, it will show the world not just its political bias, but a staggering display of hypocrisy as well.
According to Amnesty International, “Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, as they repelled the Russian invasion that began in February.”
Armed forces are obligated to protect civilians from the effects of military operations and give these individuals effective warnings of their attacks, Amnesty emphasized.
“Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, as they repelled the Russian invasion that began in February.”Amnesty International
Throughout the weekend, Islamic Jihad videos showed rockets fired at Israel from within dense residential areas in Gaza. One video, released by the IDF on Sunday along with pictures and graphics, showed the tragic consequence of such a tactic when a misfired Gazan rocket killed four Palestinian children in Jabaliya on Saturday night.
Fire from population centers indicates the presence of personnel, weapons and military infrastructure in these cities to sustain the rocket launches.
“International humanitarian law requires all parties to a conflict to avoid locating, to the maximum extent feasible, military objectives within or near densely populated areas,” Amnesty warned Ukraine.
The NGO also called it a failure by Ukraine not to evacuate civilians when it set up positions in civilian areas. As of now, it does not appear that Islamic Jihad has called for civilians to evacuate the zones that it is using for combat. Instead, videos that are circulating show minors cheering on the rocket launches, and journalists observing the rocket fire from nearby.
Military objects in civilian areas
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL accused Ukraine of not just placing military objects in civilian areas, but of using hospitals and schools as military objects. Gazan terrorists have used such facilities throughout their campaigns against Israel.
At the end of July, the IDF published documentation of several Hamas facilities; these included a weapons warehouse next to Shifa Hospital, and a tunnel underneath an UNRWA school.
“Militaries should never use hospitals to engage in warfare, and should only use schools or civilian homes as a last resort when there are no viable alternatives,” Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard said of the allegations against Ukraine. Amnesty said that operating in civilian areas didn’t justify Russia’s indiscriminate military attacks, but indicated that Ukraine was in part at fault for when Russian strikes killed civilians.
Israel’s strikes in this operation have been extremely precise. Gazan casualties have been overwhelmingly combatants. However, Islamic Jihad has been conducting attacks no less indiscriminate than Russia. By Sunday morning, almost 600 rockets were launched into Israel, about 120 of them having fallen within the Gaza Strip. The rockets are unguided, aimed at Israeli towns and cities.
Amnesty’s report may have also been misguided, striking a blow against themselves.
President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced Amnesty’s report, accusing the NGO of “trying to shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.”
The US Ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, didn’t directly address the report, but a day after the report’s release, she said that “after 163 days of an unprovoked war the Kremlin started, it should be absolutely clear that Ukrainians are in danger due to Russia’s aggression, the brutality of its forces, and their relentless barrage on cities across the country.”
Most damning of all, Amnesty’s Ukraine head Oksana Pokalchuk resigned from her role over her disagreement with the findings. She said that Amnesty gave the Ukrainian Defense Ministry little time to respond before it published its report.
“It pains me to admit it, but we disagreed with the leadership of Amnesty International on values,” Pokalchuk wrote. “That’s why I decided to leave the organization.”
As of Sunday morning, Amnesty International hasn’t commented on the tactics of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, or the operation at large.
Amnesty fired off a report on Ukraine while operating in a dense political landscape, and revealed that it is armed with hypocrisy, not human rights.