By Tarek Chatila, Montreal-area activist and writer for Amnesty Canada’s Isr/OT/PA co-group
In March, Amnesty International released its report entitled ‘Unlawful and deadly: Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict.’ Coming just two weeks before Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it is part of the ‘Nowhere to run for life, safety, justice’ campaign which demands accountability for human rights violations carried out by all parties during Israel’s operation in Gaza, codenamed ‘Protective Edge.’
During fifty days of hostilities, Palestinian armed groups launched thousands of unguided rockets and mortars towards Israel in contravention of international law. Six civilians in Israel, including a four-year-old boy and a Bedouin man, died in the attacks. Bedouin communities in Israel’s Negev/Naqab area are particularly vulnerable as Israel does not provide them with shelters, missile defenses or warning sirens. Inside Gaza, thirteen Palestinian civilians, eleven of them children, were killed when a projectile believed to have been launched from the Gaza Strip fell short of its intended target and struck the al-Shati refugee camp.
A Hamas statement rejected the findings, saying the report relied on the Israeli version of events and is as such imbalanced. It added: “war crimes have clear specifications, according to the Rome Statute, that do not in any way apply to the Palestinian resistance, which was, is, and will defend its people.”
Israel, for its part, welcomed the report’s “highlighting of Hamas’s war crimes, including the deliberate targeting of Israel’s civilian population by thousands of rockets and mortars,” adding that it is “vigorously investigating its [own] conduct [during the conflict], aiming to draw lessons and minimize civilian harm.” In response to an urgent petition requesting that Israeli authorities provide Bedouin communities in the Negev/Naqab with protective facilities, state representatives told the Israeli High Court of Justice that the villagers themselves had primary responsibility for providing protection, and that the best protective measure the residents could take was to lie on the ground.
The Canadian government has not commented on the report. Canada, itself an ICC member, has expressed strong opposition to Palestinian accession to the court despite widespread international support for the move. In January, Foreign Affairs Minister Baird called the move “a concerning and dangerous development.”
Amnesty International does not take sides in in its campaign to urge governments to uphold International Humanitarian Law (IHL) standards. It calls for the protection of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including in the context of the latest conflict in which over 1500 civilians in Gaza lost their lives as a result of massive attacks by Israel from air, sea and land. This tragedy is compounded by other violations such as collective punishment as a result of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which prevents in many cases access of the civilian population to medical care.
The time has come for a new path to peace and justice
More than two decades of negotiations have failed to bring an end to the violence or secure justice for the victims. Amnesty International urges both sides to cooperate with an ICC investigation into violations during the 2014 war.
We call on Palestinian authorities:
- to denounce attacks targeting civilians and ensure armed groups comply with international law.
We call on Israeli authorities:
- to refrain from punishing Palestine for signing the Rome Statute
- to ensure Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab are adequately protected against attacks in line with other communities in Israel
- to completely lift the siege of the Gaza Strip
- and to desist in launching disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
Amnesty International calls on Canadians:
- to show support for the ICC investigation into IHL violations committed by all parties to the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict
- to lobby their government to support the ICC’s exercise of jurisdiction over Palestinian territory, to encourage all parties to co-operate with the ICC Prosecutor, and to demand that Israel grant Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations and investigators access to the Gaza Strip.
For more information:
Unlawful and deadly: Rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict
Families under the rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes
Nothing is immune: Israel’s destruction of landmark buildings in Gaza
Tarek Chatila is a MENA specialist and writer for Amnesty Canada’s Isr/OT/PA co-group. After leaving Beirut in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War, he moved to Montreal and gained his Master’s in Public Policy and Administration from Concordia University. Tarek was head researcher for the Social Media Monitoring Project on Syria at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.