Smoke is seen after what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza strip last week.

Smoke is seen after what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza strip last week.

A distinguished professor of international law at the University of Manchester has said Israel may be guilty of a war crime in its assault of the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip this summer. 

Prof. Iain Scobbie was asked about 1 August, when an Israeli air and artillery bombardment killed 150 people in a matter of hours after reports that Hamas militants had seized an Israeli soldier.

“If it is a legitimate military target then we’ve got to question if the damage and death done to civilians was proportionate,” said Scobbie.

“In this case the answer is clearly no, it is not proportionate.”

He added: “If it’s not a legitimate military target, it’s clearly a war crime because it is an unjustified use of force with effects on the civilian population.”

A panel set up by the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission is due to start investigating potential abuses in the war by both sides shortly, with Rafah one of several incidents investigators have indicated they will examine.