Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe actions by the Israeli military in its 11-day conflict with Hamas in May, arguing that they “violated the laws of war” and “apparently amount to war crimes.”
The international advocacy group said Tuesday that following a probe into three Israeli strikes that killed 62 Palestinian civilians, analysts found that there were “no evident military targets in the vicinity,” adding that “other Israeli attacks during the conflict were also likely unlawful.”
Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, “Israeli forces carried out attacks in Gaza in May that devastated entire families without any apparent military target nearby.”
“Israeli authorities’ consistent unwillingness to seriously investigate alleged war crimes, as well as Palestinian forces’ rocket attacks toward Israeli population centers, underscores the importance of the International Criminal Court’s inquiry,” he added.
The group explained that armed Palestinian groups “also committed unlawful attacks” in the May fighting, including by launching more than 4,000 “unguided rockets and mortars toward Israeli population centers, violating the prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians.”
However, HRW said it would be releasing its findings from investigations into Palestinian militant groups in a separate report in August.
The May conflict between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas, which the U.S. identifies as a terrorist organization, escalated when Hamas fired a slew of rockets toward Jerusalem.
Tensions had grown in the region amid ongoing protests against the threatened evictions of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers in a local neighborhood.
In total, Israel said it had struck more than 1,000 targets in the fighting, noting that while the strikes were aimed at dismantling Hamas militants in the area, there were inevitably “unintended casualties,” according to The Associated Press.
In response to the HRW’s request for an ICC probe, the IDF said in a statement that Hamas was responsible for the civilian casualties, noting that the group launched attacks from residential areas.
“While the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip deliberately embed their military assets in densely populated civilian areas, the IDF takes every feasible measure to minimize, as much as possible, the harm to civilians and civilian property,” the IDF said, according to the AP.
The Hill has reached out to the IDF for additional information.
Roughly 254 people were killed in Gaza during the 11-day conflict, including at least 67 children and 39 women, according to data compiled by the Gaza Health Ministry.
An estimated 12 civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, as well as one Israeli soldier, the AP reported.