Amnesty Report Charges Israel With War Crimes for Massive Bombing of Rafah During Gaza War

The Israeli army killed at least 135 Palestinians in an effort to foil the capture of a comrade, the report, compiled jointly with researchers from the University of London, claims.

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Palestinians look for their belongings in the rubble of houses destroyed in an Israeli strike, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, August 2, 2014
Palestinians look for their belongings in the rubble of houses destroyed in an Israeli strike, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, August 2, 2014Credit: AP

A joint report by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture issued on Wednesday accuses the Israel Defense Forces of committing war crimes in Rafah during Operation Protective Edge in August 2014, when it responded to the kidnapping of Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was later declared dead.

After Goldin was snatched, the IDF “committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks” on civilians on August 1, the report says, saying that between 135 and 200 Palestinians were killed. This contrasts with the IDF figures of 41 Palestinians, 14 of them terror operatives. According to Amnesty, hundreds of homes were destroyed or seriously damaged by the massive bombing that followed Goldin’s kidnapping, in an apparent implementation of the IDF’s so-called Hannibal directive, which calls for any action necessary to foil a soldier’s capture, even if it endangers his life.

A year after the battle, the IDF has yet to complete its examination of the events of August 1, 2014, which has come to be known as Black Friday. Military Advocate General Danny Efroni wants to decide before he finishes his term in three months whether to launch a Military Police investigation into those events.

According to Amnesty’s Black Friday website, Forensic Architecture is a research team based at Goldsmith’s University of London that helped Amnesty gather information from witnesses, field researchers and photographers, and plotted the witness testimonies and other audiovisual evidence on a three-dimensional model of the urban spaces. Among its techniques was to compare satellite images of the area from July 30, August 1, and August 14.

The report describes the sequence of events after the attack on a Givati patrol that killed Maj. Benaya Sarel and Staff. Sgt. Liel Gidoni, in which Goldin was kidnapped. The report quotes Palestinian witnesses as saying that fighter jets, drones, helicopters and artillery “rained fire” on Rafah on that Friday, targeting cars, ambulances, motorcyclists and more. The inquiry by the Givati Brigade showed the 800 artillery shells and 260 mortar rounds were fired by the IDF during the battle, while fighter jets bombed 20 targets and helicopters bombed 14 more.

The IDF Spokesman referred reporters to the Foreign Ministry for a response to the report. Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon called the report an utter failure in terms of its methodology, the facts cited in it, its legal analysis and its conclusions.

“When someone reads the report, he gets the impression that the IDF was fighting against itself, since there is almost no mention of combat activities by Hamas or the other Palestinian terror groups,” Nahshon said in a statement. “Amnesty is building a false narrative in which four days of a military operation were a direct response to the killing and kidnapping of a single soldier. Apparently Amnesty forgot that this was an ongoing conflict that the IDF conducted to prevent rocket fire and to neutralize tunnels that extended beyond the [border] fence.”

The events surrounding Goldin’s kidnapping, including the use of the Hannibal directive by the Givati Brigade, have been under scrutiny for several months by a General Staff investigative apparatus. The military prosecution has periodically asked people from this team to examine new pieces of information. A year later, the examination is not yet complete and a full picture of what occurred has yet to be produced.

The IDF has still not decided whether to launch a criminal investigation of the events on suspicion of violations of international law. “The process of clarifying and collecting the facts about the battle in Rafah on August 1, 2014 by the General Staff clarifying apparatus is not finished, after the military prosecution submitted a number of requests to the apparatus to examine additional information,” said the IDF Spokesman’s Office.

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