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.
“There is strong evidence that Israeli forces committed war crimes in their relentless and massive bombardment of residential areas of Rafah in order to foil the capture of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, displaying a shocking disregard for civilian lives. They carried out a series of disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate attacks, which they have completely failed to investigate independently,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
“This report presents an urgent call for justice that must not be ignored. The combined analysis of hundreds of photos and videos, as well as satellite imagery and testimony from eyewitnesses, provides compelling evidence of serious violations of international humanitarian law by Israeli forces which must be investigated.”
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 August 1, 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.
“After Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was captured, Israeli forces appear to have thrown out the rule book, employing a ‘gloves off’ policy with devastating consequences for civilians. The goal was to foil his capture at any cost. The obligation to take precautions to avoid the loss of civilian lives was completely neglected. Entire districts of Rafah, including heavily populated residential areas, were bombarded without distinction between civilians and military targets,” said Luther.
The ferocity of the attacks, which continued after Lieutenant Goldin was declared dead on August 2, suggests they may in part have been motivated by a desire to punish the population of Rafah as revenge for his capture.
Shortly before Lieutenant Goldin’s capture on August 1, 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.
One witness described the attacks that day as an attempt to pulverize Rafah’s civilians, likening the onslaught to “a machine making mincemeat out of people without mercy.”
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.