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A Palestinian survivor of an Israeli airstrike mourns his children who were killed in the May 16, 2021 attack in Gaza City. (Photo: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images)

A Palestinian survivor of an Israeli airstrike mourns his children who were killed in the May 16, 2021 attack in Gaza City. (Photo: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images) 

Amnesty International Calls for ICC War Crimes Probe of Israeli Strikes on Gaza Homes

"Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian property and infrastructure are war crimes, as are disproportionate attacks," asserted one Amnesty official.

Brett Wilkins

Citing a "shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians" demonstrated by the Israeli military's ongoing attacks on civilian homes in the densely populated Gaza Strip, Amnesty International on Monday implored the International Criminal Court to "urgently investigate" such bombings as possible "war crimes or crimes against humanity."

"There is a horrific pattern emerging of Israel launching airstrikes in Gaza targeting residential buildings and family homes—in some cases entire families were buried beneath the rubble when the buildings they lived in collapsed."
—Saleh Higazi,
Amnesty International

Amnesty said in a statement that it "has documented four deadly attacks by Israel launched on residential homes without prior warning and is calling for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to urgently investigate these attacks."

"The death toll in Gaza continues to climb with at least 198 Palestinians killed including 58 children and more than 1,220 injured," the group noted after a weekend in which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) perpetrated at least three major massacres in Gaza.

According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, the death toll from Israeli air and artillery attacks reached 212, including 61 children and 36 women, on Monday. 

Late Friday night or early Saturday morning at least 10 members of the Abu Hatab family—including eight children and two women—were killed in a nighttime attack on a home in the Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, according to The Times of Israel. This attack is not mentioned in the Amnesty statement. 

In another bombing not mentioned by Amnesty, the Times of Israel reported that at least 42 Palestinians, including a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, were killed in an airstrike in the upscale Al-Rima neighborhood of Gaza City early Sunday.

Also on Sunday, Al Jazeera reported, IDF missiles struck a home in the al-Wehda district of Gaza, killing at least 33 people including numerous women and children and two top doctors, further straining a healthcare infrastructure already reeling from over 14 years of Israeli blockade. Amnesty said 11 children died in this attack. 

Amnesty said that "shortly before midnight on May 14, Israeli airstrikes hit the three-story building of the al-Atar family in Beit Lahia, killing 28-year-old Lamya Hassan Mohammed al-Atar [and] her three children Islam, 7, Amira, 6, and Mohammed, an 8-month-old baby."

According to the statement:

At least 152 residential properties in Gaza have been destroyed since May 11, according to the Gaza-based human rights organization, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Gaza, Israeli strikes have destroyed 94 buildings, comprising 461 housing and commercial units, while 285 housing units have been severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.

According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), more than 2,500 people have been made homeless due to the destruction of their homes, and more than 38,000 people have been internally displaced and have sought shelter in 48 [U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees] schools across Gaza.

Indiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups towards civilian areas of Israel has also killed and injured civilians and damaged homes and other civilian properties. The rockets fired from Gaza into Israel are imprecise and their use violates international humanitarian law, which prohibits the use of weapons that are by nature indiscriminate. These attacks should also be investigated by the ICC as war crimes.

"There is a horrific pattern emerging of Israel launching airstrikes in Gaza targeting residential buildings and family homes—in some cases entire families were buried beneath the rubble when the buildings they lived in collapsed," Saleh Higazi, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

"Under international humanitarian law, all parties must distinguish between military targets and civilian objects and direct their attacks only at military objectives," asserted Higazi. "When carrying out attacks, parties must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians."

"Under international humanitarian law, all parties must distinguish between military targets and civilian objects and direct their attacks only at military objectives."
—Higazi

"Although the Israeli military has given no explanation of what military objectives it was targeting in these attacks, it is hard to imagine how bombing residential buildings full of civilian families without warning could be considered proportionate under international humanitarian law," Higazi continued. "It is not possible to use large explosive weapons, like aircraft bombs that have a blast radius of many hundreds of meters, in populated areas without anticipating major civilian casualties."

"By carrying out these brazen, deadly attacks on family homes without warning, Israel has demonstrated a callous disregard for lives of Palestinian civilians who are already suffering the collective punishment of Israel's illegal blockade on Gaza since 2007," he said.

"Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian property and infrastructure are war crimes, as are disproportionate attacks," added Higazi. "The International Criminal Court has an active investigation into the situation in Palestine and should urgently investigate these attacks as war crimes."

"States should also consider exercising universal jurisdiction over those who commit war crimes," Higazi concluded. "Impunity only works to fuel the pattern of unlawful attacks and civilian bloodshed, which have we have repeatedly documented in previous Israeli military offensives on Gaza."


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