Israel's 'shocking disregard' for Palestinian civilians may be a war crime, human rights group says

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People inspect the rubble of destroyed residential building that was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Monday, May 17, 2021. AP Photo/Adel Hana
  • Israel has bombed residential homes in Gaza without warning, killing civilians, Amnesty International said.

  • The human rights group documented four such attacks, which it said "may amount to war crimes."

  • At least 200 Palestinians have died, per authorities in Gaza. Ten Israelis have also been killed by indiscriminate rocket fire.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Israeli government has engaged in a pattern of deadly attacks against residential homes in Gaza, carrying out bombing raids without giving the innocent men, women, and children inside any time to escape, Amnesty International charged on Monday.

The strikes, which show a "shocking disregard" for Palestinian civilians, "may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity," the human rights group said.

For over a week, Israeli forces have bombarded the Gaza Strip, a densely populated Palestinian territory controlled by the Hamas militant group. Israel has said its strikes are intended to stop indiscriminate rocket fire - itself a war crime - that has killed 10 of its citizens, including two children.

At least 212 Palestinians have been killed, including 61 children and 36 women, according to Gaza health authorities, prompting widespread criticism that the Israeli response has been disproportionate.

In one attack, carried out after 1:00 a.m., Israeli airstrikes leveled two residential buildings, killing 30 people.

"There was no warning, so people were inside their home sitting together, and this is a lively, bustling area," a medic, Yousef Yassin, told researchers with Amnesty International.

Another strike, just before midnight, hit a three-story residential building that 20 people called home.

"We eventually found my daughter, a mother of three, with her children, one of whom was a baby, under one of the cement pillars of the house; all of them were dead," Hassan al-Atar, a civil defense officer, told the group.

Saleh Higazi, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said it was "hard to imagine" how bombing such buildings could be considered a proportionate response under international law.

"By carrying out these brazen deadly attacks on family homes without warning Israel has demonstrated a callous disregard for lives of Palestinian civilians who are already suffering the collective punishment of Israel's illegal blockade on Gaza since 2007," Higazi said.

The findings come days after Amnesty warned that Israeli authorities "have an obligation to choose means and methods of attacks that would minimize risks posed to civilians," and amid increasing calls for and end to the fighting.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York joined a majority of the Democratic caucus in urging an immediate halt to Israeli military actions. "I want to see a ceasefire reached quickly and mourn the loss of life," he told reporters.

The White House, however, had resisted such calls, with President Joe Biden insisting that the Israeli response - made possible, in part, by more than $3 billion in US military aid - is not in fact a "significant overreaction."

The US has also reportedly blocked efforts at the United Nations Security Council to issue a statement demanding a cessation of hostilities.

By Monday night, however, Biden was echoing his party. In a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden "encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians," according to a White House statement. He also "expressed his support for a ceasefire."

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