Amnesty International finds no evidence of military targets at Rafah sites targeted by Israel

Human rights group Amnesty International said four sites hit by Israel in separate targeted attacks in Rafah that killed 95 civilians — including 42 children — were not lawful military targets, accusing Israel of direct war crimes for indiscriminate attacks.

Amnesty International said three of the strikes hit in December and another hit in January, all in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that is acting as a major refugee camp for around 1.5 million Palestinians.

The human rights group said the investigation, published Monday, indicates there is no evidence the targeted residential buildings were lawful military targets or were used by fighters, “raising concerns that these strikes were direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects and must therefore be investigated as war crimes.”

“Even if Israeli forces had intended to target legitimate military objectives in the vicinity, these attacks evidently failed to distinguish between military objectives and civilian objects and would therefore be indiscriminate,” Amnesty International said in the report. “Indiscriminate attacks that kill and injure civilians are war crimes.”

The Hill has reached out to the Israel Defense Forces for comment.

The organization also alleged that Israel did not notify or warn civilians ahead of the strikes and that three of the attacks were carried out at night when families were likely to be asleep.

The attacks came as Rafah has become the last so-called safe zone in Gaza, though the refugee camp has been frequently hit by Israeli strikes and humanitarian officials say there is no safe place in the coastal strip.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s senior director of research, advocacy, policy and campaigns, said “entire families were wiped out in Israeli attacks even after they sought refuge in areas promoted as safe and with no prior warning from Israeli authorities.”

“These attacks illustrate an ongoing pattern of Israeli forces brazenly flouting international law, contradicting claims by Israeli authorities that their forces are taking heightened precautions to minimize harm to civilians,” Guevara-Rosas said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to move into Rafah, ordering his military last week to come up with an evacuation plan for the civilians sequestering in the area before moving in.

Netanyahu said Palestinian militant group Hamas, which Israel is vowing to destroy in response to the deadly attack Oct. 7, is hiding battalions in Rafah.

The U.S. has said it does not support a push into Rafah, and Washington is trying to secure another negotiated hostage-release deal between Hamas and Israel.

More than 27,000 people have died in Gaza since Oct. 7 — most of them civilians. The Biden administration has tried to reduce civilian casualties but has not called for a cease-fire.

In the investigation, Amnesty International found at one site a GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, a precision-guided weapon that is made in the U.S. by defense contractor Boeing.

“In light of the appalling scale of death and destruction, all states have a clear obligation to act to prevent genocide yet instead key states have failed to make a clear call for a ceasefire and are continuing to fuel war crimes by supplying arms to Israel,” Guevara-Rosas said.

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment.

The U.S. supplies Israel with roughly $3 billion in aid per year. President Biden has circumvented Congress twice to provide Israel with emergency military aid, to the ire of some Democrats.

Amnesty International documented the rubble at each of the sites and interviewed 18 Palestinians, including survivors of the attack, and analyzed the buildings with satellite imagery.

The published report includes detailed accounts of the attacks from survivors and witnesses of the Rafah strikes.

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