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Amnesty: Israel committed Gaza war crimes

Amnesty International has called the targeting of civilian buildings in Gaza a war crime [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 December, 2014

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The London-based rights group documents evidence, including statements by the Israeli army, showing that the attacks on buildings were "a collective punishment against the people of Gaza".

Airstrikes on identified buildings during the Israeli attack on Gaza in August 2014 were "a deliberate and direct attack on civilian buildings and amount to war crimes," says Amnesty International in a new report published on Tuesday.

Nothing is immune: Israel's destruction of landmark buildings in Gaza provides evidence that attacks on four multi-storey buildings during the last four days of the conflict were in contravention of international humanitarian law and calls for them to be independently and impartially investigated. 

"All the evidence we have shows this large-scale destruction was carried out deliberately and with no military justification," said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme. 

Airstrikes on the Municipal Commercial Centre, a multi-storey landmark building in Rafah, during the last four days of Israel's Operation Protective Edge were "a deliberate and direct attack on civilian buildings and amount to war crimes", Amnesty stated.

The building housed a shopping centre with 47 shops, offices, a garage and a clinic. The Israeli army reportedly warned residents before destroying the buildings, but dozens of people from neighbouring buildings were injured and hundreds lost their homes, businesses, property, savings and important documents. 

The hundreds of families who lost their homes and livelihoods are struggling to make ends meet. 

Israel claimed that one of the destroyed buildings housed a Hamas command centre and "facilities linked to Palestinian militants", but provided no evidence for the attacks. 

Another building highlighted by the report is the 12-florr Zafer 4 Tower in Gaza City. This was home to around 44 families and 250 people, and was destroyed by two large missiles.

Residents reported that they received telephone calls from the Israeli army warning them to leave, and an army spokesman also said that the army had "knocked on the roof", that is, it had fired a smaller "warning" missile at the roof of the building before the destruction of the family homes within.

Hashem al-Saftawi, a police officer who lived on the tenth floor with five family members, said that he received a phone call from an Israeli soldier calling himself Mousa.

Mousa told Saftawi to leave the building within five minutes.

There was an old lady in a wheelchair who could not get outside in that time.

"He [Mousa] told me to get her out now because they were going to strike the area in a few minutes," Saftawi told Amnesty.

Collective punishment

The London-based rights group documents evidence, including statements by the Israeli army, showing that the attacks were "a collective punishment against the people of Gaza" designed to destroy their livelihoods, Philip Luther said. 

The Israeli army started criminal investigations into particular actions during the Gaza war, such as the shelling of a UN school which left 15 dead and the bombing of a beach which killed four children. 

However, Israel has refused to cooperate with a United Nations inquiry into possible war crimes during the conflict. It has also not responded to Amnesty's report, which called for access to Gaza and for the UN inquiry to be allowed "to conduct its investigation without hindrance".

Over 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the latest Israeli offensive on Gaza. 73 Israelis were killed, 67 of whom were soldiers.

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