HAIFA, Israel – A horrific missile attack that killed 11 children in Gaza during last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, for which Israel was broadly condemned at the time, was actually caused by a Palestinian missile misfiring and killing its own people, Amnesty International charged in a report released Thursday.
“In the deadliest incident believed to have been caused by a Palestinian armed group during the conflict, 13 Palestinian civilians – 11 of them children – were killed when a projectile exploded next to a supermarket in the crowded al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza on 28 July 2014, the first day of Eid al-Fitr,” Amnesty’s report said. “The children had been playing in the street and buying crisps and soft drinks in the supermarket at the time of the attack.”
“Although Palestinians have claimed that the Israeli military was responsible for the attack, an independent munitions expert, who examined the available evidence on behalf of Amnesty International, concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.”
The report highlights the fact that the blast could not have been caused by a drone attack or as the result of Israeli shelling. The crater was too shallow, it said, while “its circumference was too wide to have been caused by a tank shell.”
“Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict killing and injuring civilians,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. “In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip.”
Israel’s insistence from the start that the 13 deaths were caused by one of Hamas’ own missiles going astray was generally disregarded as Hamas rushed to accuse Israel. Even repeated testimony from an Italian journalist in Gaza at the time that indicated a number of journalists were convinced the deaths had been caused by a Hamas shell, failed to persuade most people that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) was telling the truth.
The journalist, Gabriele Barbati, tweeted, “International journos [journalists] say: feeling today’s massacre in Shaati beach playground #gaza was misfired rocket by Hamas or factions.” The following day he added, “@IDFSpokesperson said truth in communique released yesterday about Shati camp massacre. It was not #Israel behind it”.
Barbati subsequently fled for his life from Gaza once his tweets were noticed by Hamas, but later that day tweeted again, “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children y’day in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris.”
Amnesty also made note of “other violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian armed groups during the conflict, such as storing rockets and other munitions in civilian buildings – including UN schools – and cases where Palestinian armed groups launched attacks or stored munitions very near locations where hundreds of displaced civilians were taking shelter.”
The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, which against the wishes of the U.S. and others, intends to apply for membership of the International Criminal Court, next week, may be liable for this and other war crimes committed by Palestinians during the war if accepting ICC jurisdiction. The PA officially became jointly responsible for Gaza as part of the unity government with Hamas on June 2, 2014, some 5 weeks before the conflict began.