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Amnesty International: Palestinians Committed War Crimes in Gaza, Israel

Israeli residents of Ashkelon run for shelter during a rocket alert. (Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli residents of Ashkelon run for shelter during a rocket alert. (Wikimedia Commons)

The prominent international human rights group Amnesty International has accused Palestinians of committing war crimes during last year’s war in Gaza.

“Palestinian armed groups displayed a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians by repeatedly launching indiscriminate rockets and mortars towards civilian areas in Israel during the conflict in July and August 2014,” according to a newly-released Amnesty International report.

The rights group said several attacks launched from within Gaza amount to war crimes, including one in which a projectile killed 13 Palestinian civilians—11 of them children—when it landed in the al-Shati refugee camp. Palestinians claimed Israeli forces were responsible for the attack, but an independent munitions expert concluded a Palestinian rocket struck the camp where children were playing.

Lacking the sophisticated weaponry used against them by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Palestinian militant groups including Hamas relied heavily upon unguided rockets and projectiles which cannot be aimed at specific targets. The use of such weapons is prohibited under international law and constitutes a war crime.

The Amnesty report details the death of 4-year-old Daniel Tregerman, one of six civilians in Israel who died during the war, to highlight the tragic consequences of indiscriminate attacks carried out by Palestinian fighters.

Tregerman’s family “had fled their home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz because of the fighting but returned the day before he was killed. Moments after the alarm sirens went off, a mortar launched from Gaza struck the family car parked outside the house. Daniel’s little sister who was also present watched him die before her eyes,” the report states.

“My husband and son were in the living room and I was yelling for them to come into the shelter. Shrapnel [from the mortar] entered Daniel’s head, killing him immediately,” his mother, Gila Tregerman, told Amnesty. Al-Qassam Brigades, the militant wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The majority of the killing committed during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s month and a half-long air, land and sea campaign targeting Hamas and other militant groups firing thousands of rockets against the Jewish state, was done by Israel. According to Amnesty, “at least 1,585 Palestinian civilians, including more than 530 children, were killed in Gaza, and at least 16,245 homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by Israeli attacks during the conflict, some of which also amounted to war crimes.”

Reports from the Red Cross and international human rights groups accuse Israeli troops of deliberately shooting and killing unarmed civilians attempting to flee for their lives in Gaza, as well as medical personnel attempting to rescue the injured. Israel also attacked hospitals and other medical facilities in Gaza. Entire families were wiped out as Israeli troops targeted Hamas and its ability to launch rockets and mortars into Israel.

After Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bombed a playground full of children celebrating Eid and multiple United Nations schools sheltering refugee families desperately fleeing the Israeli onslaught, the United States took the rare step of issuing an official condemnation of the slaughter.

The Amnesty report also blasted the Palestinian practice of storing rockets and other munitions in civilian buildings, including United Nations schools, another violation of international law.

“The international community must help prevent further violations by tackling entrenched impunity and by ending transfers to Palestinian armed groups and Israel of all arms and military equipment that could be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

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