Armed Palestinians doing battle during last summer’s military operation in the Gaza Strip did not distinguish between civilians and Israeli military forces as required by international law, according to a report issued Wednesday by Amnesty International.
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The report describes the damage caused by the rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, including details of the fire that caused the deaths of Israeli civilians.
According to the report, the organization could not determine the possible objectives of the rocket and mortar fire during the confrontation. The authors noted that in some cases mortars were fired at Israeli military targets, but since mortars are not precise weapons they should not be used when military bases are located adjacent to civilian areas. “Indiscriminate attacks that kill or wound civilians constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes,” the report said, noting in particular the massive mortar fire during the final week of the fighting.
The report notes that in certain instances the armed Palestinians violated the protection granted to facilities like United Nations structures, hospitals, and religious sites, and that rockets were fired from civilian structures and residential areas. The report also says the group found evidence that civilian structures, including UNRWA facilities and UN schools, were used to store ammunition.
According to the report, because the Israeli authorities refuse to let human rights groups enter Gaza, it was hard to document and investigate violations of international law by armed Palestinian groups. However, the organization noted there is “significant evidence” to indicate that some of the groups’ actions endangered civilians.
The group noted that the death of 13 Palestinians, including 11 children, by a rocket fired at the A-Shati refugee camp on July 28, “demonstrates the indiscriminate nature of the rockets fired by armed Palestinian groups.” Hamas denied it was responsible for the fire, but an independent weapons expert who examined evidence from the incident for Amnesty said it was clearly a Palestinian rocket. The authors note that Palestinian officials never responded to the organization on this issue. The report notes that if it was a Palestinian rocket, it would mean that Palestinians killed more civilians in Gaza than in Israel.
“Civilians on both sides of the Gaza/Israel border are entitled to know the truth about the casualties of indiscriminate fire by armed Palestinian groups, just as they are entitled to know the truth about casualties caused by Israeli forces,” the report states.
The report also noted that Israel, unlike the Palestinian Authority, has “an effective system for civilian defense that helped limit the number of casualties on the Israeli side,” referring to the Iron Dome anti-missile system. The organization decried the fact that Iron Dome does not provide protection to Bedouin villages in the Negev.
This is the third report the organization has issued on Operation Protective Edge. The previous two dealt with the Israel Defense Forces activities during the operation.