Trying to thwart the capturing of the Israeli occupying soldier, Hadar Goldin, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) committed a carnage and killed 140 defenseless Palestinians and injured hundreds within a few hours in Rafah city, southern Gaza, on Aug 1, 2014.
On that day, Israeli occupation authorities and Hamas agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire that would take effect at 8 am that same day. Three weeks after the Israeli occupation offensive on the besieged Gaza, thousands of Palestinians who had sought refuge in shelters prepared to return to their homes during the anticipated break in hostilities.
In Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, a group of Israeli occupying soldiers patrolling an agricultural area west of the perimeter fence encountered a group of Qassam resistance fighters posted there.
A firefight ensued, resulting in the death of two colonial soldiers and the martyrdom of one Palestinian freedom fighter. The freedom fighters captured an Israeli occupying officer, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, and took him into a tunnel.
What followed became one of the deadliest episodes of the onslaught; intensive use of firepower by Israeli occupation forces, which lasted for four days and killed scores of civilians (reports range from at least 135 to over 200), injured many, and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and other civilian structures, mostly on 1 August.
After the Israeli occupation forces realized there was a missing soldier, they implemented the Hannibal Directive, a controversial command designed to deal with captures of soldiers by unleashing massive firepower on persons, vehicles, and buildings in the vicinity of the attack, despite the risk to civilians and the captured soldier(s).
In this incident, many civilians were killed because of the heavy fire the IOF laid to stop the abduction. Under the Hannibal procedure, there was no time to warn them to leave their homes.
Inam Ouda Ayed bin Hammad, a local resident of Rafah, told Amnesty International that, after 9 am on 1 August, she noticed the shelling intensifying and missiles landing in close vicinity to their home in the al-Tannur neighborhood of Rafah. She and her family were on the streets seeking shelter elsewhere when a bomb hit a building nearby and killed her son Anas, her cousin Wafa and at least 14 other civilians, as well as injuring scores of other fleeing civilians.
“There is overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate, or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets and in vehicles and injured many more. This includes repeatedly firing artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas during the attacks on Rafah between 1 and 4 August. In some cases, there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing,” Amnesty International said.
Amnesty added, “There is consequently strong evidence that many such attacks in Rafah between 1 and 4 August were serious violations of international humanitarian law and constituted grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention or other war crimes.”
We call on the international community in general to support the role of the International Criminal Court in examining allegations of crimes under international law including those documented in this report. All states should oppose punitive measures against Palestine for joining the International Criminal Court or for submitting information on Israeli occupation violations to the Court or taking other steps to activate international justice mechanisms.