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Israel committed war crimes in 2014, says Amnesty International

Amnesty International says it has found 'strong evidence' that Israeli forces committed war crimes in their bombardment of Rafah, which killed 135 civilians.

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    Palestinian artists paint on the remains of car in Rafah on February 24, 2015. Witnesses sat the car was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war last summer.
    Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters/File
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Amnesty International says new evidence shows Israeli forces carried out war crimes in Gaza following the capture of a soldier by Hamas in last year's war.

The joint report by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture published on Wednesday says at least 135 civilians were killed in a bombardment of Rafah after Israeli Lt. Hadar Goldin was abducted on Aug. 1. 

"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," said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

The 2014 Gaza-Israel conflict, initially sparked by the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers, began on July 8 and ended on Aug. 26 with a truce.

The fighting left 2,251 Palestinians dead, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 551 were children, according to UN figures. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed.

The Amnesty report specifically refers to the bombardment of Rafah on Aug. 1, known locally as "Black Friday," which happened soon after the lieutenant was abducted in the outskirts of Rafah in southern Gaza. He was later declared dead.

After Goldin’s abduction, Israel employed "a ‘gloves off’ policy, with devastating consequences for civilians," reports Mr. Luther. "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 Israeli embassy in London has dismissed the report as "fundamentally flawed in its methodologies, in its facts, in its legal analysis, and in its conclusions," Reuters reports. It said in a statement that Israel conducts all its operations "in accordance with international law" and added that the alleged Rafah incidents are already "under examination" by the Israeli Defense Forces.

On June 22 the United Nations reported that both Israel and Palestinians may have committed war crimes during the 2014 conflict.

Three days later, the Palestinian Authority made its first submission of evidence of Israeli war crimes to the International Criminal Court, in a bid to speed up the court’s inquiry into the abuses committed during last year’s conflict.

It is not clear when ICC will announce its conclusion. The Hague-based ICC has no police force or enforcement powers of its own.

Israel, which is not a member of the ICC, has always denied allegations of war crimes by its forces during the 2014 Gaza war. It instead accuses Hamas of atrocities in firing rockets at Israel.

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