BEIRUT — Amnesty International has published a new report outlining the findings from several investigations into Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip that demonstrate "that Israeli forces continue to flout international humanitarian law, wiping out entire families with impunity."
"Entire families have been wiped out by Israeli attacks even though they had taken refuge in areas considered safe and had not been warned by the Israeli authorities," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Executive Director of Research, Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns at Amnesty International.
"These attacks illustrate that Israeli forces are brazenly flouting international law and contradict claims by Israeli authorities that their forces are taking increased precautions to minimize harm to civilians," she further asserted.
This is not the first report of its kind published by Amnesty International.
A "stain on the collective conscience"
The NGO conducted four investigations into four Israeli strikes: three in December 2023, after the end of the humanitarian pause, and one in January 2024. These strikes killed at least 95 civilians, including 42 children in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost governorate and at a time when it was supposed to be the "safest" area of the enclave.
Amnesty International says its teams visited the sites of the four attacks, took photos and videos of the destruction, and interviewed a total of 18 people, including 14 survivors and four relatives involved in the rescue operations.
"The organization's Crisis Evidence Lab analyzed satellite images, photos and videos to geolocate and verify the attacks and the resulting destruction," the NGO said.
"Among those killed in these illegal attacks were a little girl not yet three weeks old, a prominent 69-year-old retired doctor, a journalist who welcomed displaced families into his home and a mother who shared her bed with her 23-year-old daughter. The testimonies of the bereaved survivors should serve as a reminder that these atrocious crimes in Gaza are a stain on the world's collective conscience," said Guevara-Rosas.
The organization adds that it has not found any reference to the four strikes in question in the "war diary published on the official Israeli army page," nor has it obtained any response from Israel regarding questions sent about these same strikes on Jan. 19 and 30, 2024.
It is in this same area that the Israeli army plans to launch a new ground offensive, an operation that could result in "tens of thousands of deaths," according to Hamas, while the United States has called on Israel not to attack "without a credible and feasible plan" to protect the population.
"Such an operation is likely to have devastating consequences for over a million people crammed into an area of 63 kilometers squared as a result of successive waves of mass displacement," said Amnesty International.
Amnesty's findings do not stop there. For each of the attacks it investigated, the NGO claims to have found "no indication that the residential buildings affected could be considered legitimate military objectives, or that the people in them were military targets."
This finding leads it "to fear that these strikes were direct attacks on civilians and civilian property, and should therefore be investigated as war crimes."
"Even if Israeli forces had intended to target legitimate military objectives in the vicinity ... they were carried out indiscriminately" the report explains, stressing that "indiscriminate attacks that kill and injure civilians are war crimes."
The organization adds that the evidence gathered "also indicates that the Israeli army gave little or no effective warning before launching the attacks, at least to anyone living in the affected areas."
Amnesty International also points out "that three of these attacks were carried out at night when civilian residents, including families displaced from other areas, were likely to be, and were, inside their homes in bed."
The NGO then refers to the court order issued by the International Court of Justice in the case opened by South Africa. On Jan. 26, the World Court announced measures demanding that Israel prevent any possible incitement to "genocide" in Gaza. Amnesty says that "the horrific details of these cases" in conjunction with the ICJ's findings, "reinforce the urgency for all states to press for an immediate and lasting cease-fire."
The human rights organization considers this an absolutely necessary condition for "implementing the [provisional] measures ordered by the Court, and stresses "the importance of imposing a complete arms embargo on all parties to the conflict."
Details of the strikes
Amnesty International's report also provides details of the four strikes, accompanied by survivor testimonies.
• The first was on Dec. 12, 2023, at 3:02 a.m. According to the NGO, "it directly hit two houses belonging to the Harb family in the al-Zouhour district of Rafah, killing 25 civilians, including 10 children, nine men and six women, one of whom was eight months pregnant. At least 17 other people were injured. The strike completely destroyed the two houses and severely damaged three adjacent houses where some of the victims were staying."
• The second strike took place on Dec. 14 at 11:45 a.m. It completely destroyed a three-story house belonging to Abdallah Shehada, in the Brazil district of Rafah. The 69-year-old retired surgeon, former director of the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, was killed along with at least 29 other civilians, including 11 children, seven men and 11 women. At least 10 others were injured.
• The third Israeli strike was carried out on Dec. 19, 2023, at 1:30 a.m. According to the NGO, it hit the two-story house of Omar Zo'rob in western Rafah, killing 22 civilians, including 11 children, seven men and four women. The oldest victim of the attack, Omar Zo'rob, was 75 years old, while the youngest, his grandniece Amira Aisha, was less than three weeks old and not yet registered with the civil registry. The house was completely destroyed and at least three adjacent houses were severely damaged.
• Finally, the fourth attack took place on Jan. 9, 2024, shortly before 11 p.m. It targeted the top two of five floors in the Nofal family's building in Tall0 al-Sultan, a neighborhood to which the Israeli army had repeatedly ordered displaced residents to flee. The attack killed 18 civilians, including 10 children, four men and four women. At least eight other people were injured.