AI demands UN investigation in Israel-Gaza conflict war crimes

LONDON: Amnesty International (AI) has urged the UN to urgently mandate an independent international investigation into Israeli airstrikes on Gaza as well as Palestine’s indiscriminate shelling of Israel, and hold accountable those responsible for war crimes.

The UN questions the legality of Israel’s Gaza offensive, while Netanyahu is dismissive of international pressure.

Despite claims by Israel that its operation “Protective Edge”, launched June 8, targets Hamas militants, most of more than a hundred Palestinians killed in airstrikes on Gaza are civilians, Amnesty says, adding that at least 24 children and 16 women were among the casualties.

Simultaneously, at least 20 people in Israel have been wounded by rocket attacks from Palestinian territories, according to the human rights watchdog, calling on the UN to set up a “fact-finding mission to Gaza and Israel to investigate violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.”

“Swift UN action is needed as lives hang in the balance,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. “The international community must not repeat previous mistakes, standing by and watching the devastating consequences for civilians of both sides.”

Amnesty sees arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian military groups as a means of preventing the violence escalating further.

“Pending such an embargo, all states must 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,” Amnesty’s official statement reads.

Strikes on homes, performed as part of Israel’s military operation, are a matter of particular concern to human rights groups. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on Friday questioned the legality of such attacks.

Israel has argued that all targets in the Gaza strip are either military facilities or are homes of Hamas militants.

In case of doubt, buildings ordinarily used for civilian purposes, such as homes, are presumed not to be legitimate military targets,” Libi Vice, spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces (IFD) told RT on Thursday.

Human rights watchdogs want proof that 340 housing units, destroyed in Gaza, were actually 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 Amnesty’s Luther.

“Firing indiscriminate rockets, which cannot be aimed accurately at military targets, is a war crime, as is deliberately targeting civilians,” he added. “There can be no excuse for either side failing to protect civilians, including journalists, medics and humanitarian workers, or civilian facilities.”

Amnesty International has also called on Israel and Egypt to “ensure that sufficient amounts of medical and humanitarian supplies are allowed into Gaza”. Healthcare services in the region have been on the brink of collapse due to shortages of supplies, the World Health Organization earlier warned.

Friday saw thousands of activists in London and Oslo protesting against Israeli strikes in Gaza. Organizers of the massive rallies said Palestinians are facing “a horrific escalation of racism and violence” at the hands of the IDF.