ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Gaza: Cutting edge investigation points to Israeli war crimes in Rafah on ‘Black Friday’

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  4. ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Gaza: Cutting edge investigation points to Israeli war crimes in Rafah on ‘Black Friday’
30 Jul 2015
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Regional conflict

New evidence showing that Israeli forces carried out war crimes in retaliation for the capture of an Israeli soldier has been released today in a joint report by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture. The evidence, which includes detailed analysis of vast quantities of multimedia materials, suggests that the systematic and apparently deliberate nature of the air and ground attack on Rafah which killed at least 135 civilians, may also amount to crimes against humanity.

The online report, ‘Black Friday’: Carnage in Rafah during 2014 Israel/Gaza conflict, features cutting edge investigative techniques and analysis pioneered by Forensic Architecture, a research team based at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The massive amount of evidence collected was presented to military and other experts, and then pieced together in chronological order to create a detailed account of events from 1 August, when the Israeli military implemented the controversial and secretive “Hannibal” procedure following the capture of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin.

Under the “Hannibal Directive”, Israeli forces can respond to the capture of a soldier with intense firepower despite the risks to his life or to civilians in the vicinity. As the report illustrates, the implementation of the directive led to the ordering of unlawful attacks on civilians.

Intense bombardment

Shortly before Lieutenant Goldin’s capture on 1 August 2014, a ceasefire had been announced, and many civilians returned to their homes believing it was safe. Massive and prolonged bombardment began without warning while masses of people were on the streets, and many of them, especially those in vehicles, became targets. That day later became known in Rafah as “Black Friday”.

Eyewitness accounts described horrifying scenes of chaos and panic as an inferno of fire from F-16 jets, drones, helicopters and artillery rained down on the streets, striking civilians on foot or in cars, as well as ambulances and other vehicles evacuating the wounded.

Cutting edge forensic analysis

For this investigation, eyewitness accounts describing the carnage in Rafah were cross-referenced with hundreds of photos and videos taken from various sources and multiple locations, as well as new high resolution satellite imagery obtained by Amnesty International.

The analysis reveals that on 1 August, Israeli attacks on Rafah targeted several locations where Lieutenant Goldin was believed to be located, regardless of the danger posed to civilians, suggesting that the attacks may even have been intended to kill him.

“Forensic Architecture combines new architectural and media technologies to reconstruct complex incidents based on the traces that violence leaves on buildings during a conflict. Architectural models help us draw links between multiple bits of evidence such as images, videos uploaded on social media and testimonies to virtually reconstruct the unfolding of events,” said Eyal Weizman, the Director of Forensic Architecture.

Attacks on hospitals and medical workers

Satellite images and photographs analysed for the report show craters and damage indicating that hospitals and ambulances were attacked repeatedly during the assault on Rafah, in violation of international law.

A doctor described how frantic patients fled Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital after attacks on the area intensified. Some were wheeled out on beds, many had intravenous drips still attached. A young boy in a plaster cast dragged himself along the ground to get away.

An ambulance carrying a wounded old man, woman and three children was struck by a drone-fired missile, setting it alight and burning everyone inside including medical workers to death. Jaber Darabih, a paramedic who arrived at the scene, described the charred remains of bodies with “no legs, no hands… severely burned”. Tragically, he later discovered that his own son, a volunteer paramedic was among those killed in the ambulance.

Ending the cycle of impunity

This investigation into Rafah provides some of the most compelling evidence yet of serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, during the conflict.

This report’s findings add compelling evidence to an already large body of credible documentation of serious violations during the Gaza conflict, which demand independent, impartial and effective investigations.

Victims and their families have a right to justice and reparation. And those suspected of ordering or committing war crimes must be prosecuted.”

29 July 2015

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