Human Rights

Israeli Attorney Files War Crimes Charges Against Hamas at Int’l Criminal Court

An Israeli attorney filed a petition on Monday to charge former Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh with war crimes at the International Criminal Court, accusing him of overseeing the use of human shields during the 2014 Gaza war.

Calev Michael Myers filed the petition on behalf of the Israel-Li (Israel to Me) organization, which he leads, and the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, Ynet reported. He charged that the terrorist group “consistently used civilians as ‘human shields'” during the 50-day conflict.

“This crime manifested in launching of rockets and mortar shells out of crowded population centers, (frequently) encouraging civilians to remain in areas that constitute potential attack targets for the IDF, and storing rockets and mortar shells in structures used as schools, hospitals, mosques and other civilian facilities,” the petition explained.

According to Myers, the ICC’s purpose is “to protect civilians who fall victim to regimes that brutally trample on basic human rights, through investigation, prosecution and bringing the individuals responsible for these terrible crimes to justice.”

Haniyeh was responsible, Myers asserted, because he “personally—and all the more forcefully through the government he led—encouraged the citizens of Gaza to remain in their homes and did not let them leave despite repeated warnings from the IDF to leave the buildings as they were to be bombarded.”

During the war, known as Operation Protective Edge in Israel, a Hamas official went on television and ordered Gazans to stay in their homes, even if Israel called on civilians to evacuate the structures. Hamas also used medical centers — including Shifa hospital in Gaza City — as a command centers and rocket launching sites, according to the Israeli military and independent news organizations. According to Amnesty International, Hamas used Shifa hospital “to detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects, even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical centre.”

During the war, two foreign news crews recorded Hamas firing rockets from civilian areas.

A year after the conflict ended, a Polish journalist testified that he witnessed Hamas using human shields. Wojciech Cegielski, a reporter for Polish Radio, wrote in an op-ed published in Haaretz:

The first incident happened late in the evening. I was in the bathroom when I’ve heard a loud rocket noise and my Spanish colleague, a journalist who was renting a flat with me near the Gaza beach, started to scream. He wanted to light a cigarette and came to one of the open windows. The moment he was using his lighter, he saw a fireball in front of his eyes and lost his hearing.

From what our neighbors told us later, a man drove up in a pickup to our tiny street. He placed a rocket launcher outside and fired. But the rocket failed to go upwards and flew along the street at ground level for a long time before destroying a building. It was a miracle that nobody was hurt or killed.

As Hamas continues preparing for its next war against Israel by rebuilding its fortifications and terror tunnels, some Gazan civilians report fearing for their personal safety.

Last May, a woman living by Gaza’s border with Israel said that she believes Hamas hid a tunnel entry point near the shelter where her family has resided since losing their home during Operation Protective Edge. The woman, who used the name Umm Nidal to conceal her identity, told The New York Times that she fears that her family will be “torn apart” in any future fighting. “I am sure, one million percent, that those with tunnels under their houses cannot sleep, or taste the joy of life,” she added.

In recent weeks, Hamas has twice rejected Israeli offers that could have improved life for residents of Gaza, refusing to demilitarize or release hostages in exchange for infrastructure investments, the creation of an industrial zone, and freer movement into Israel.

[Photo: France 24 English / YouTube ]