Israel’s brutal bombardment of civilians during the 50 day Gaza conflict may be tantamount to war crimes. That’s according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday, which accuses Israel of violating “the laws of war”, in relation to military air strikes on three Gaza schools housing displaced families. The three respective attacks are reported to have killed a total of 45 civilians, 17 of whom were children.
The HRW’s special advisor to their programs office, Fred Abrahams, said the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) conducted the attacks on “three well-marked schools”, in full knowledge that hundreds of people were being sheltered there. He also accused them of failing to provide reasons that were convincing enough, to justify such attacks.
“Israel should go beyond sweeping justifications and provide detailed explanations for its attacks in and around these three schools, housing hundreds of displaced people,” he said.
The three respective attacks are said to have taken place on the 24th July in the area of Beit Hanoun, the 30th in Jabalya, and the 3rd August in Rafah. The report determined that the first two attacks “did not appear to target a military objective”, whilst the third was “unlawfully disproportionate”.
Israel has however attributed all three attacks, to the fact that Palestinian fighters were operational in close vicinity to the schools.
HRW further suggested that the laws of war meant that Israel was obligated to launch an investigation into possible war crimes, as well as appropriately punish those responsible for the attacks.
In response, Israel has confirmed it would establish a ‘Fact Finding Assessments Committee’ to further address the matter. However, the HRW has expressed doubt over the investigation, particularly due to Israel’s reputation for “failing to undertake credible investigations into war crimes”.
“The Israeli military informed Human Rights Watch that it had created a Fact-Finding Assessments Committee to “examine exceptional incidents” during the seven-week conflict, 44 incidents had been referred to the committee as of September 10,” said HRW..
In addition, HRW have also condemned the IDF’s occupation and use of a school in Beit Hanoun, insisting that under no circumstance should a school be used for military purposes.
“Even if students aren’t there, using schools for military purposes makes them military objectives subject to attack,” read the statement.
Furthermore, they called on Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to approach the International Criminal Court to expand its jurisdiction to the Palestinian territories. This would allow for “prosecution of serious international crimes by both sides”.
Roughly 2,131 people on the Palestinian side were killed during the 7-week conflict, a quarter of whom were children. Unicef has confirmed that of the more than 500 children killed during the war, 70% were under the age of 12. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)