Justice for victims of War Crimes in Gaza Conflict
On 8 July 2014, Israel launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip for the third time in less than six years.
"WE COULDN’T HEAR THE KIDS, THEIR VOICES HAD COMPLETELY GONE. THAT’S WHEN I REALIZED THEY WERE ALL DEAD."
- Khalil Abed Hassan Ammar, who lost three of his four children in an Israeli attack on their Gaza City home on 20 July 2014.
Over 50 days, both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and other serious breaches of international law. To date, neither side has held anyone to account.
During the war, Israeli forces fired tens of thousands of artillery and tank shells into densely populated residential areas, and launched air strikes on homes across the Gaza Strip, killing families inside in many cases. They struck schools sheltering civilians and attacked hospitals and medical workers, including ambulance staff trying to evacuate the dead and wounded.
On the other side, Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of rockets and mortars towards Israel, and also stored and fired munitions from residential areas of Gaza. Hamas forces executed at least 23 people in Gaza they accused of “collaborating”, and arrested and tortured others.
Today, we’re calling on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to genuinely investigate all possible crimes and prosecute those responsible.
50 days of death and destruction in Gaza: explore what happened
We’ve worked with Forensic Architecture to create an interactive online map and database of Israeli attacks on Gaza during the conflict. Using data collected by Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and witness testimonies collected by Amnesty International, the Gaza Platform documents significant patterns in the Israeli attacks which point to likely war crimes.
The evidence is overwhelming. We cannot wait for more violence to destroy more lives – we need action now. Please tweet the three influential politicians below with our suggested tweets to keep the pressure on.
.@John Kerry USA must tell Israel and Palestine to investigate war crimes #50Days4Gaza
.@PHammondMP UK must tell Israel and Palestine to investigate war crimes #50Days4Gaza
Targeting homes and medics
The evidence suggests that the Israeli military had a deliberate policy of targeting family homes. They continued to target homes throughout the war, even after it became clear how many civilians were being killed. Over the 50 days, more than 19,000 homes were destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
Just one example is the Abu Jame’ family, whose three-storey home in Bani Suheila, east of Khan Younis, was bombed without warning by an Israeli aircraft on 20 July 2014, killing 25 family members. “Our house had nothing to do with the fighting,” Tawfiq Abu Jame’ told us. “No one from the family was involved in the resistance, not then, not ever.”
"Our house had nothing to do with the fighting."
There is also a pattern of attacks on health workers and facilities. In some cases, the Israeli army repeatedly fired at clearly marked ambulances and paramedics wearing recognizable fluorescent vests.
Paramedic Mohammad al-Abadlah was killed by Israeli gunfire while attempting to rescue an injured man on 25 July 2014 in al-Qarara. “Suddenly we were being fired at directly,” his co-worker Hassan al-Attal told us. “My colleague screamed and said ‘I’ve been shot’… When colleagues got out to try to reach him, they too were fired at.”
Have they genuinely investigated the crimes?
Over the past year, the Israeli and Palestinian authorities have conducted only limited investigations, which have not been independent or effective.
The Hamas authorities have said they are investigating the killings of alleged “collaborators” in Gaza. The Israeli military is looking into some of the alleged crimes by its forces, but such investigations in the past have only served to shield those responsible.
"The Israeli and Palestinian authorities have conducted only limited investigations."
In both cases, they are claiming to investigate their own possible crimes, in processes that lack credibility.
Right now, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which investigates and prosecutes war crimes when governments are unwilling, is considering opening a full investigation into alleged war crimes committed by both sides. We now have an opportunity to move towards bringing those responsible to justice.
Justice for Victims of War Crimes
In late June, an independent UN Commission of Inquiry into the war found that both Israel and Palestinian armed groups had committed possible war crimes, confirming previous reports by local and international human rights organizations.
It was an important step in the fight for justice. But now we need to keep the pressure on to make change happen and ensure the Commission’s recommendations are put into action.
Until now, some influential governments – in particular the USA, UK and Canada – have blocked moves which could press Israel and Palestine to take action. But today these states have the power to help ensure the Israeli and Palestinian authorities:
1. Genuinely investigate war crimes and other serious violations of international law
2. Prosecute those responsible in fair trials
3. Co-operate with the International Criminal Court.