A report from Amnesty International has claimed that airstrikes on four multi-storey landmark buildings in Palestine by the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) in the last four days of Operation Protective Edge amounted to war crimes.
Operation Protective Edge was a military operation launched by IDF in July. Its aim was to stop rocket fire from Gaza into Israel that had escalated after an Israeli crackdown on Hamas militants in the West Bank, following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers.
The report was entitled ‘Nothing is immune’. It found that the airstrikes came shortly before a ceasefire came into effect and destroyed the 12-storey Zafer 4 Tower, the 16-storey Italian Complex, and the 13-storey al-Basha Tower in Gaza City, as well as the four-storey Municipal Commercial Centre in Rafah.
Scores of civilians in surrounding buildings were wounded in the bombing, despite Israeli Military taking measures to evacuate residents from the targeted buildings before destruction. No one was killed, however.
The report alleged that the Israeli authorities did not give any valid military reasons for the destruction, and vaguely mentioned that two of the buildings housed a Hamas command centre and ‘facilities linked to Palestinian militants’.
According to Amnesty, the bombardment appears to have been deliberate destruction and targeting of civilian buildings and property carried out without military necessity. It might be considered as a form of collective punishment against the Gaza residents based on the statements made by Israeli officials.
The report concludes that the attacks breach the international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a state party, and hence amount to a war crime.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme director Philip Luther said: "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 minimise harm to civilians and their property.
"War crimes must be independently and impartially investigated, and those responsible should be brought to justice in fair trials."
However, the Israeli Embassy in London criticised the report, saying it makes unfounded allegations concerning the conduct of the IDF and disregarding key factors. It also claimed releasing information that would disclose the target of military strikes might jeopardise classified information and intelligence sources.
A spokesperson for the embassy said: "The report offers a decontextualised description of events, while relying heavily on testimonies gathered by unnamed local "fieldworkers", who are not identified and whose credibility is never questioned.
"Amnesty ignores the clear evidence that Hamas systematically and deliberately used civilian infrastructure for military purposes."
The embassy has also asked Amnesty to investigate the systematic and deliberate firing of rockets and mortars at Israel’s civilian population by the internationally-recognised Jihadist terror group.
According to the UN, the 50-day Gaza conflict killed at least 2,189 Palestinians, including more than 1,486 civilians, and injured 11,000, in addition to 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians, with scores more wounded.
Image: Palestinians gather around the remains of a commercial centre in Rafah, which was allegedly hit by an Israeli air strike. Photo: courtesy of Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.