Amnesty International: ‘Strong evidence’ that Israel committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. ‘Nobody can claim that they don’t know what happened on Friday the 1st of August. We are closer now to justice than we were before.’Israeli troops committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during and after ‘Black Friday’ on 1 August in last year’s Gaza war, according to a report released Wednesday by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture.

In Rafah between the 1st and 4th of August 2014, Israeli forces killed at least 135 Palestinian civilians, including 75 children, in their search for captured Israeli soldier, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin. A ceasefire had been called shortly before his capture on 1 August, leading many Palestinian civilians to believe it was safe to return to their homes. The intense attacks subsequently faced by local residents were unexpected and likened by one eyewitness to ‘a machi,e making mincemeat out of people without mercy’.

The online report uses detailed eyewitness testimonials as well as cutting edge techniques from Forensic Architecture, a research team based at Goldsmiths, University of London. Forensic Architecture used photos, videos and satellite imagery in order to piece together the chronology of events. Studying shadows and smoke plumes enabled the researchers to determine the time and location of an attack, supported by eyewitness accounts, videos and photos from social media. Eyal Weizman, director of Forensic Architecture, says this report enables Israel’s military narrative to be countered by a ‘much more powerful narrative from people on the ground’.

The Israeli military search for Lieutenant Goldin led to a disproportionate offensive against local Palestinians and the implementation of the ‘Hannibal Directive’. Amnesty International reports that under this directive, Israeli forces are permitted to respond to the capture of a soldier with ‘intense firepower’. This led to a ‘gloves off’ policy of indiscriminate killing of civilians and attacks against hospitals, schools and ambulances. Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, stated that ‘the obligation to take precautions to avoid the loss of civilian lives was completely neglected’.

Statements from Israeli army commanders and soldiers made to the Givati Brigade inquiry and the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence indicate that the large number of civilians killed may have been a collective punishment for the population of Rafah for the capture of an Israeli soldier. Furthermore, this violent reaction continued even after the body of Lieutenant Goldin had been located. Many of these attacks have been found to seriously violate international law and constituted breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. If these violations were part of a systematic attack on civilians in Rafah, directed by state policy, they may also constitute crimes against humanity.

Deborah Hyams, from Amnesty International, stated that there was ‘a role for the ICC’ in this investigation and that she hoped ‘this evidence would be considered by the office of the prosecutor’. The report strongly recommends that the Israeli authorities should reform their own investigations system so that it meets international standards while also revising their methods and tactics of fighting in densely populated areas such as Gaza.

Saleh Hijazi, a researcher for Amnesty International, said: ‘Nobody can claim that they don’t know what happened on Friday the 1st of August. We are closer now to justice than we were before.’

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