Israeli air strikes on Gaza high-rise buildings may amount to war crimes: Human Rights Watch

Israeli air strikes that destroyed four high-rise buildings during May’s conflict in the Gaza Strip may amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch says.

No-one was hurt in the attacks, but a report by the campaign group says dozens of families were left homeless.

The Israeli military said Palestinian militant groups were using the towers for military purposes and turning civilians inside into human shields.

But HRW said it had not provided evidence to support those allegations.

At least 256 people were killed in Gaza, according to the United Nations, and 13 people were killed in Israel during 11 days of fierce fighting.

It began after weeks of spiralling Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas, the militant group which ruling Gaza began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.

Between 11 and 15 May, Israeli strikes destroyed the Hanadi, Jawhara, Shorouk, and Jala towers in Gaza City.

In each case, the Israeli military warned tenants of impending attacks, allowing for their evacuation, according to HRW’s report.

Israeli authorities said the buildings housed offices of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, including the headquarters of certain units and military intelligence. One tower included offices for “the most valuable Hamas technological equipment” for use against Israel, it says.

HRW found no evidence that members of militant groups involved in military operations had a current or long-term presence in any of the towers at the time they were attacked.

Even if there were such a presence, the report says, the attacks appeared to cause foreseeably disproportionate harm to civilian property.

“The apparently unlawful Israeli strikes on four high-rise towers in Gaza City caused serious, lasting harm for countless Palestinians who lived, worked, shopped, or benefitted from businesses based there,” said Richard Weir, HRW’s crisis and conflict researcher.

“The Israeli military should publicly produce the evidence that it says it relied on to carry out these attacks.”