Amnesty International called Saturday the UN to mandate a international investigation into violations committed on all sides amidst ongoing Israeli air strikes across Gaza Strip.
“As the violence intensifies there is an urgent need for the UN to mandate an international independent fact-finding mission to Gaza and Israel to investigate violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. This is the first crucial step towards ensuring that those who have committed war crimes or other serious violations can be held accountable,” said Philip Luther Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International in a press release.
The organization called the international community to “not repeat previous mistakes, standing by and watching the devastating consequences for civilians of both sides failing to abide by and enforce the laws of war. Swift UN action is needed as lives hang in the balance.”
It also called the UN to immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups with the aim of preventing further serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by the parties to the conflict.
Pending such an embargo, the human rights organization also called upon all states to immediately suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to the parties, which have failed to properly investigate violations committed in previous conflicts or bring those responsible to justice.
Israeli air strikes have targeted civilian homes in Gaza on the basis that they are the family homes of “Hamas operatives”, according to statements by the Israeli army, destroying the homes after warning the families to leave. However, in several such cases no evidence has emerged to indicate that the alleged “Hamas operatives” were inside the homes at the time of the attack, that the homes were being used to store munitions, or otherwise were being used for military purposes.
“Unless the Israeli authorities can provide specific information to show how a home is being used to make an effective contribution to military actions, deliberately attacking civilian homes constitutes a war crime and also amounts to collective punishment against the families,” said Luther.
In other cases, civilians have been killed in Israeli air strikes on or next to their homes. In the first three days of the military operation, Israeli air strikes on or adjacent to houses killed at least 32 civilians, including multiple members of the Karawa’, al-Hajj, Hamad, al-Nawasra, and Malaka families; at least two of the houses were reportedly attacked without warning.
Other civilian homes have been hit using the “knock on the roof” procedure, in which Israeli forces fire a small missile at the home as a “warning”, before firing another missile which destroys the home. In some but not all cases, families receive telephone calls from the Israeli military in advance.
“There is no way that firing a missile at a civilian home can constitute an effective ‘warning’. Amnesty International has documented cases of civilians killed or injured by such missiles in previous Israeli military operations on the Gaza Strip,” said Luther.
Commenting on firing ‘indiscriminate’ rockets by Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip at Israel, Luther said: “Firing indiscriminate rockets, which cannot be aimed accurately at military targets, is a war crime, as is deliberately targeting civilians.”