Destroyed ambulance in Shuja'iyya in the Gaza Strip during last year's conflict. Photo by Boris Niehaus

Launch of innovative digital tool helps expose patterns of Israeli violations in Gaza

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Coinciding with the one year anniversary of the 2014 Gaza war, Amnesty International in collaboration with Forensic Architecture released an investigative online tool which maps Israeli strikes in Gaza during the July-August assault, with the goal of pushing for accountability for war crimes and other violations of international human law.

The application, aptly named the Gaza Platform, enable users to explore and analyze data relating to Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza. The platform, which will be updated in the coming months, has already highlighted a number of patterns in the attacks by Israeli forces which indicate grave and systematic violations were committed.

According to the UNHRC, Operation Protective Edge resulted in 2,100 Palestinian deaths in Gaza, 65% of whom were civilians.  

“By revealing patterns rather than just presenting a series of individual attacks, the Gaza Platform has the potential to expose the systematic nature of Israeli violations committed during the conflict,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. 

The Platform records the time and location of each attack on an interactive map and classifies it according to numerous criteria including: type of attack, site struck, and number of casualties to highlight patterns. Photos, videos, eyewitness testimony and satellite imagery are included where available. 

The Platform clearly illustrates an overwhelming pattern of targeting residential homes, with more than 1,200 Israeli attacks on houses resulting in more than 1,100 civilian deaths. Direct attacks on civilians not directly participating in hostilities and on civilian objects are prohibited under international humanitarian law, or “the laws of war”. Amnesty International, the UN Commission of Inquiry and other conflict monitoring organizations have raised the alarm about the high number of such attacks during the 2014 conflict.

While a vast amount of multimedia information, including testimony, photos, videos and satellite imagery, is still being processed, the Gaza Platform currently shows that more than 270 Israeli attacks were carried out using artillery fire during the 2014 conflict, killing more than 320 civilians. The repeated use of artillery, an imprecise explosive weapon, in densely populated civilian areas constitutes indiscriminate attacks that should be investigated as war crimes.

Users can also note disturbing patterns, such as Israeli attacks striking first responders, medical workers and facilities, as well as the extensive use of “knock on the roof” warning attacks, where a missile fired from a drone is followed shortly afterwards by a larger bomb. Amnesty International does not consider that such strikes constitute an effective warning, nor do they absolve Israel from the clear obligation not to direct attacks at civilians or civilian property.

Multimedia evidence can often play an instrumental role in confirming what took place after the fact. The digital age has rapidly increased the pace and means of information gathering during a human rights crisis such as last year’s conflict in Gaza.

“The launch of the Gaza Platform today, a year after the start of the conflict, is a significant step in the process of documenting the full scale of violations that took place in Gaza last year. It is also a call for individuals and other organizations to send more photographs, testimonies and other forms of evidence about attacks they have experienced or documented during the conflict,” said Eyal Weizman, Director of Forensic Architecture.

A team of researchers in London and Gaza has been working over several months to collate and input onto the Platform data collected on the ground by the Gaza-based human rights organizations Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), as well as information gathered by Amnesty International.

The launch of the Platform is just the start of the project – it will be updated consistently as further evidence relating to the conflict continues.