Amnesty investigation claims US-made weapon used in two Israeli airstrikes in Gaza that killed 43 civilians

Palestinians stand by the building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Deir al-Balah, south of the Gaza Strip, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Palestinians stand by buildings destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Deir al-Balah, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Amnesty’s report focused on two strikes in this neighborhood.Hatem Moussa/APCNN — 

An investigation by Amnesty International alleges that a US-made weapons guidance system was used in two Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in October in which 43 civilians are said to have been killed.

Fragments of the US-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions guidance system were found in the rubble of destroyed homes in the neighborhood of Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, according to a report released Tuesday by the human rights organization.

Israel uses a wide variety of American weapons and munitions, but Amnesty International’s report is one of the first attempts to tie an American-made weapon to a specific attack that left a significant number of civilians dead.

The JDAM is a “guidance tail kit that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurate, adverse weather ‘smart’ munitions,” according to the US Air Force.

CNN cannot independently verify Amnesty International’s findings.

Amnesty International said its weapons experts and a “remote sensing analyst” examined satellite imagery and photos of the homes that show the “fragments of ordnance recovered from the rubble” and the destruction, the report explains. Amnesty’s fieldworkers took the photos.

As a result of these two attacks, 19 children, 14 women, and 10 men were killed, the report claims.

The human rights organization said it “did not find any indication that there were any military objectives at the sites” of the airstrikes or that the individuals living in the homes were legitimate military targets.

“The organization found that these air strikes were either direct attacks on civilians or civilian objects or indiscriminate attacks,” the report says, calling for the attacks to be investigated as war crimes.

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In a statement to CNN, the Israel Defense Forces called the report “flawed, biased and premature, based on baseless assumptions regarding the IDF’s operations.”

“The assumption that intelligence regarding the military use of a particular structure does not exist unless revealed is contradictory to any understanding of military activity, and the report uses this flawed assumption to imply equally flawed and biased conclusions regarding the IDF, in line with existing biases and prior problematic work by this organization,” the IDF said.

The statement said that the military “regrets any harm caused to civilians or civilian property as a result of its operations, and examines all its operations in order to learn and improve.”

Amnesty International, in its report, said that the use of American weapons for such strikes “should be an urgent wake-up call to the Biden administration.”

“The US-made weapons facilitated the mass killings of extended families,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, according to the report.

US reviewing report

The US State Department is reviewing Amnesty International’s report, spokesperson Matt Miller said Wednesday.

“We have made clear in our discussions with Israeli leaders that we are deeply concerned about the protection of civilians in this conflict,” Miller said. “We expect Israel to only target legitimate targets and to adhere to the laws of armed conflict.”

The Pentagon on Tuesday said it too was reviewing the report.

“We are going to continue to consult closely with our Israeli partners on the importance of taking civilian safety into account in conducting their operations,” spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told journalists.

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II, according to the Congressional Research Service. The US on average gives Israel $3 billion in military aid per year, and the Biden administration sought an additional $10.6 billion in military aid in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attack in Israel.

Israeli military tanks roll near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 5, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

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The first attack referenced by Amnesty International occurred about 8:30 p.m. on October 10, hitting the al-Najjar family home and killing 21 of its members, as well as three of their neighbors, the report says.

That bomb most likely weighed about 2,000 pounds, based on the amount of damage to the home and surrounding buildings, Amnesty claims. The year 2017 is also stamped into the plate, photos from the report show, indicating the bomb was manufactured in that year.

“JDAM is a guided air-to-surface weapon that uses either the 2,000-pound BLU-109/MK 84, the 1,000-pound BLU-110/MK 83 or the 500-pound BLU-111/MK 82 warhead as the payload,” according to the US Air Force.

‘A scene of utter destruction’

Suleiman Salman al-Najjar, who survived the attack, told Amnesty he had been ill and returned from the hospital to find his home bombed and family killed. “I was shocked. I rushed home and saw a scene of utter destruction. I could not believe my eyes. Everybody was under the rubble. The house was completely pulverized. The bodies were reduced to shreds,” he said.

The second attack occurred about midday on October 22 and hit three houses belonging to three brothers in the Abu Mu’eileq family, the report says. In total, 18 members of the Mu-eileq family were killed, including 12 children and six women, as well as one of their neighbors, the report says.

Bakir Abu Mu’eileq told Amnesty he lost his wife and four of their children in the attack. Abu Mu’eileq – an ear, nose and throat specialist – said that he had been working at the nearby hospital when the attack occurred.

“We are three brothers married to three sisters, living among ourselves, focused on our families and work, and far from politics. We are doctors and scientists,” Abu Mu’eileq said, adding, “we cannot understand why our homes were bombed. … There is nobody armed or political here. Our lives, our families, were destroyed completely, obliterated. Why?”

Amnesty says photos show the bomb that hit the homes of the Mu-eileq family weighed about 1,000 pounds and was manufactured in 2018, according to the year stamped into the plate.

“The US may share responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by Israel with US-supplied weapons, as all states have a duty not to knowingly contribute to internationally wrongful acts by other states,” Amnesty warned.

The human rights organization is urging the US government and other governments to stop transferring arms to Israel “that more likely than not will be used to commit or heighten risks of violations of international law.”

“A state that continues to supply arms being used to commit violations may share responsibility for these violations,” Amnesty said.

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