50 Days of Death & Destruction: Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge”

September 10, 2014 IMEU
50 Days of Death & Destruction: Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge”
PHOTO: A Palestinian returns to his house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli offensive in the east of Gaza City after a ceasefire was declared on August 27, 2014. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)


For further reference, see our recently released fact sheets Putting Palestinians “On a Diet”: Israel’s Siege & Blockade of Gaza and The Children of Gaza: A Generation Scarred & Under Siege, and our previously released fact check, Israeli Claims About the Assault on Gaza.



  • According to the United Nations, between July 7 and August 26, at least 2131 Palestinians were killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge.” According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, a total of 2168 Palestinians were killed, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) put the total number of Palestinian fatalities at 2191. (NOTE: Updated February 2015 to reflect revised PCHR figures)
  • According to the UN, at least 1473 of the dead were civilians, including 501 children and 257 women, with another 379 individuals yet to be identified.  According to PCHR, 1660 Palestinian civilians were killed, including 527 children and 299 women, while Al Mezan reported that 1666 of the dead were civilians, including 521 children and 297 women. For further reference, see “Notable Incidents of Civilian Casualties" section in fact sheet here. (NOTE: Updated February 2015 to reflect revised PCHR figures)
  • According to the UN, at least 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members killed in a single Israeli attack, for a total of 739 fatalities (see here for more), and up to 1500 children were orphaned.
  • According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 11,100 Palestinians were wounded, including 3374 children, 2088 women, and 410 elderly people. The UN estimates that 1000 of the injured children will suffer a lifelong disability.
  • The UN estimates that at least 373,000 children require direct and specialized psychosocial support (PSS), while every child in Gaza has been affected by the crisis and will need some level of psychosocial support. (For more on the toll inflicted on Gazas children, see our recently released fact sheet, The Children of Gaza: A Generation Scarred & Under Siege.)
  • During the same period, 71 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, including 66 soldiers and four civilians, as well as one foreign worker from Thailand.



  • According to the UN, 18,000 housing units were totally destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli attacks, leaving approximately 108,000 of Gazas 1.8 million Palestinians homeless. Prior to this latest assault, there were 12,000 Palestinians still displaced from Israel’s 2008-09 attack, “Operation Cast Lead,” and a shortage of 71,000 housing units, according to the UN. (See here for UN Gaza Crisis Atlas, showing satellite images and geographic distribution of attacks.)
  • According to the UN, at the peak of Israel’s assault, an estimated 485,000 people (approximately 28% of Gaza’s population) were displaced.



  • Israeli attacks caused widespread damage to Gaza’s already frail and dilapidated electrical grid, run down and in disrepair after seven years of siege and blockade. Most notably, on July 29 Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant, knocking it out of commission indefinitely, prompting Amnesty International to condemn the attack as an act of "collective punishment” against the entire population. (Israel previously bombed the plant during assaults in 2006 and 2008-09.) According to the UN, even following repairs to what remains of the electrical grid, most areas of Gaza continue to endure up to 18 hours of electrical outages a day.
  • Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s power plant caused the shutdown of water treatment plants, while Israeli tank fire put Gazalargest sewage treatment plant out of commission. Other Israeli attacks did extensive damage to Gaza’s water and sewage systems, also already in critical condition due to the siege and previous Israeli assaults, leading to the release of raw sewage into open pools, farmland, and the Mediterranean Seacausing health concerns and affecting fishermen. On August 5, Oxfam warned that Israeli attacks damaging wells, pipelines, and reservoirs had caused the contamination of fresh water supplies, already heavily contaminated before the assault, and that 15,000 tons of solid waste had leaked into the streets of Gaza.
  •  According to the September 4 UN Gaza crisis report:
    • 450,000 people were unable to access municipal water systems due to infrastructure damage and/or low water pressure.
    • On average, 20% to 30% of Gazawater and wastewater systems remain significantly damaged
  • According to the UN, 22 schools were destroyed and 118 damaged, and at least six teachers killedAs a result of the ongoing violence, schools being damaged and destroyed, and displaced people taking refuge in schools, nearly half a million children had the start of their school year delayed, from August 24 to September 14. As the UN noted in its September 4 Gaza crisisreport:
    “The education sector was already overstretched prior to the crisis, suffering from a shortage of almost 200 schools, with classes running in double shifts… When schools open, children will face even more acute over-crowding and under-resourcing as a result of the collateral damage suffered

    “Additionally, with hundreds of thousands of children in need of psychosocial support (PSS), teachers and educational staff (many of whom have also experienced acute trauma) will be stretched to provide the appropriate support required to ease children back in to school and to provide ongoing support throughout the school year.”


  • According to the Palestinian Federation of Industries, 419 businesses and workshops were damaged, and 128 totally destroyed by Israeli attacks.
  • The overall unemployment rate in Gaza prior to Israel’s latest assault was 45% (70% for those aged 20-24). According to the UN: “It is expected that labour market conditions in Gaza will further deteriorate following the conflict, exacerbating the impact of the blockade and the longstanding access restrictions imposed by Israel which have been preventing any meaningful economic activity."
  • According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Gaza’s economy was in a "state of total collapse” even prior Israel’s latest attack, warning on September 3 of “grave consequences if Israel’s siege and blockade aren’t lifted.



  • Israeli attacks also caused severe damage to Gaza’s agricultural and fishing sectors, particularly in areas near Gaza’s boundary with Israel, which were subjected to intense bombardment and designated a no-go zone by the Israeli military during much of the assault. According to the UN: 
    “Hostilities forced farmers and herders to abandon their lands, and resulted in substantial direct damage to Gaza's 17,000 hectares [42,00 acres] of croplands as well as much of its agricultural infrastructure, including greenhouses, irrigation systems, animal farms, fodder stocks and fishing boats. Access to the sea was also prohibited for most of the 50 days of hostilities; restrictions have been restored to the six nautical mile limit, but there have been reports of shooting at, and detaining, fishermen in recent days, reportedly for exceeding this limit.

    “These losses come on top of an already fragile economy and livelihoods. Around 66 per cent of the population of Gaza was receiving food assistance prior to the crisis and the household food insecurity level or vulnerable to food insecure stood at 72 per cent of households.”
  • According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, the poultry sector suffered $10 million in losses as a result of the Israeli offensive, which killed two million chickens and caused widespread damage to farms and agricultural structures.



  • According to the Palestinian Authority, it will cost $7.8 billion (USD) to repair the damage caused by Israel’s assault, including $2.5 billion for housing, $250 million for the energy sector, and approximately $143 million for education. (For more on the costs of the most pressing humanitarian and reconstruction needs, see the UNGaza Crisis Appeal, September 9.)
  • According to the UN:
    “In addition to shelter solutions, the main priority for humanitarian agencies continues to be the repair and reconstruction and the restoration of essential services to affected communities, which effectively means the entire population of the Gaza Strip. However, this will not be possible without a more permanent agreement that will allow for the entry of the materials needed to re-build homes, schools and hospitals, to repair roads, electricity lines and water and sanitation networks and bring about transformational change in Gaza."



  • PalestinianIsraeli, and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented evidence of widespread violations of the laws of war committed by the Israeli military during “Operation Protective Edge,” including:
    • The reckless and disproportionate use of deadly force in densely populated urban areas.
    • Attacks on medical facilities and workers and UN schools sheltering displaced civilians.
    • Attacks on civilians and the targeting of civilian infrastructure and the homes of Palestinian political and military officials.



  • The Israeli military employs a strategy known as the Dahiya Doctrine, which calls for the systematic use of massive and disproportionate force, including against civilian targets, in order to defeat and deter enemies. The doctrine is named after the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut, a stronghold of the Hezbollah movement, that Israel virtually destroyed during its assault on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
  • During “Operation Protective Edge” the Israeli military used imprecise weaponry, artillery in particular, in densely populated areas, leading to huge civilian casualties. On August 15, Haaretz newspaper reported that up until that point, the Israeli army had fired at least 32,000 artillery shells into Gaza - four times the amount used during “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel’s devastating 22-day assault in the winter of 2008-09. On July 30, Amnesty International issued a statement condemning an attack on a UN school in Jabalia that killed at least 17 civilians sheltering from the violence, noting:
    It is inevitable that the repeated use of artillery in densely populated civilian neighbourhoods will lead to the unlawful killing and injury of civilians and destruction and damage to civilian buildings, regardless of the intended target. Israeli forces have used such reckless tactics before, including in Operation ‘Cast Lead’ in 2008/9, when some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, the majority of them civilians.”
  • Israeli forces destroyed entire neighborhoods in areas such as Shejaiya in central Gaza, Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, and Khozaa, and flattened high-rise residential buildings and shopping centers.(See here for video of Beit Hanoun being destroyed in the space of less than one hour.)
  • On July 28, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon warned that Israeli attacks on Gaza raised "serious questions about proportionality.”
  • On July 23, Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, expressed deep concern over possible Israeli “war crimes” in Gaza, telling a special session of the UN Human Rights Council:
    The targeting of civilian homes is a violation of international humanitarian law, unless the homes are being used for military purposes. Attacks against military objectives must offer a definite military advantage in the prevailing circumstances, and precautions must be taken to protect civilian lives… A number of incidents, along with the high number of civilian deaths, belie the claim that all necessary precautions are being taken. People – particularly the elderly, sick and those with disabilities – are not given sufficient time to scramble out of their homes. When they do manage to run out into the street, there is nowhere to hide and no way of knowing where the next shell or missile will land.”
  • The vast majority (approximately 70-75%) of Palestinians killed by the Israeli military during “Operation Protective Edge” were civilians. In comparison to the 1473 to 1666 Palestinian civilians killed by Israel, only four Israeli civilians and one foreign worker were killed by Palestinians during the same period. The number of Palestinian children killed alone (approximately 500) exceeds the total number of Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in rocket and all other attacks over the past decade
  • Over the course of its ground invasion, the Israeli military twice invoked the so-called “Hannibal Directive,” which calls for pouring heavy fire into the immediate vicinity and surrounding areas when an Israeli soldier is believed to have been taken prisoner, in order to prevent their capture:
    • On July 20, the Israeli military launched a bloody assault against the residential neighborhood of Shejaiya in Gaza City following the apparent capture of a soldier by Palestinian fighters, killing more than 66 people including at least 17 children, 14 women and four elderly peopleIn the space of less than an hour, the Israeli army fired more than 600 artillery shells into Shejaiya. Condemning the high civilian death toll, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Israel’s actions “atrocious.” In a press release accompanying an open letter to Israel’s attorney general on July 21, 10 Israeli human rights organizations expressed “serious concern” about “the legality of the operation, and in particular, the potential violation of the fundamental principles of the laws of war, specifically the principle of distinguishing between combatants and civilians.”
    • On August 1, the Israeli military killed between 130 and 150 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in Rafah in southern Gaza after an Israeli soldier was reportedly taken as a prisoner of war by Palestinian fighters (he was later declared dead by Israel). During the assault, Israeli forces fired more than 1000 artillery shells in the space of three hours.


  • On at least seven different occasions, the Israeli military attacked UN schools sheltering displaced civilians, killing approximately 43 people and wounding hundreds more in three of the incidents:
    • On August 3, an Israeli missile strike outside of a UN school in Rafah in southern Gaza killed at least 10 civilians, including at least one child, and wounded dozens of others. Condemning the attack, UN officials said that they had informed the Israeli military of the exact GPS coordinates of the school, where approximately 3000 Palestinians were taking shelter, 33 times in an attempt to prevent it from being bombed, the final time just an hour before the attack. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the Israeli attack a “moral outrage and a criminal act,” while a US State Department spokesperson declared “the United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling,” adding"The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.” The incident was the third time an Israeli attack killed civilians taking refuge in a UN school in the previous 10 days.
    • On July 30, at least 17 people were killed, including four children, and almost 100 wounded when Israeli tanks shelled a UN school where more than 3000 internally displaced people (IDP) were taking shelter in Jabalia in northern Gaza. Condemning the attack, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared: “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.” According to UN officials, they had given the Israeli military GPS coordinates for the school 17 times since July 16 in an attempt to ensure it wasn’t attacked.
    • On July 24, a UN school in Beit Hanoun where approximately 1500 IDPs were sheltering was struck by several Israeli missiles, killing at least 16 people and injuring 150 others. According to UN officials, they twice asked the Israeli military to allow a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the school during the day, but Israel refused.



(See here for a more extensive list of attacks against medical facilities and workers.)

  • On August 7, Amnesty International issued a statement entitled “Mounting evidence of deliberate attacks on Gaza health workers by Israeli army,” which read in part:
    “An immediate investigation is needed into mounting evidence that the Israel Defense Forces launched apparently deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals in Gazawhich have left six medics dead.” 

    “‘The harrowing descriptions by ambulance drivers and other medics of the utterly impossible situation in which they have to work, with bombs and bullets killing or injuring their colleagues as they try to save lives, paint a grim reality of life in Gaza,’ said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. ‘Even more alarming is the mounting evidence that the Israeli army has targeted health facilities or professionals. Such attacks are absolutely prohibited by international law and would amount to war crimes. They only add to the already compelling argument that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court.’”



  • Human rights groups have documented a number of cases of civilians being directly attacked by Israeli forces during “Operation Protective Edge.” In its August 21 daily Gaza emergency update, the UN noted:
“Human rights organizations have expressed serious concerns regarding incidents where civilians or civilian objects have been directly hit by Israeli airstrikes, in circumstances where there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in the close vicinity. Such cases raise concerns about the targeting of civilians, in violation of the principle of distinction.”
  • On August 4, Human Rights Watch released a report entitled "Israeli Soldiers Shoot and Kill Fleeing Civilians,” which read in part:
    “Human Rights Watch investigated eight Israeli airstrikes that were apparent violations of the laws of war before the ground offensive that began on July 17, 2014. The findings and reports of numerous new civilian casualties heightened concerns for the safety of civilians during the ground offensive.”

    “The attacks Human Rights Watch investigated include a missile attack that killed four boys on a Gaza City pier and wounded three others, multiple strikes over several days on a hospital for paralyzed and elderly patients, attacks on an apparent civilian residence and media worker’s car, and four previously documented strikes. In many, if not all, of these cases, Human Rights Watch found no evidence of a military target. Israeli forces failure to direct attacks at a military target violates the laws of war. Israeli forces may also have knowingly or recklessly attacked people who were clearly civilians, such as young boys, and civilian structures, including a hospital  laws-of-war violations that are indicative of war crimes.
  • On July 16, Human Rights Watch issued a report entitled “Unlawful Israeli Airstrikes Kill Civilians: Bombings of Civilian Structures Suggest Illegal Policy,” which read in part:
“Human Rights Watch investigated four Israeli strikes during the July military offensive in Gaza that resulted in civilian casualties and either did not attack a legitimate military target or attacked despite the likelihood of civilian casualties being disproportionate to the military gain. Such attacks committed deliberately or recklessly constitute war crimes under the laws of war applicable to all partiesIn these cases, the Israeli military has presented no information to show that it was attacking lawful military objectives or acted to minimize civilian casualties.



  • The homes of Palestinian political and military officials and fighters were also targeted by the Israeli military, in violation of the laws of war, killing and wounding scores of civilians, including relatives of the intended targets. As noted by Amnesty International in a Q&A released on July 25: “Israel appears to consider the homes of people associated with Hamas to be legitimate military targets, a stance that does not conform to international humanitarian law.”



Damaging or destroying a power plant, even if it also served a military purpose, would be an unlawful disproportionate attack under the laws of war, causing far greater civilian harm than military gain.”

“The shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant has had an impact on the population far beyond power outages. It has drastically curtailed the pumping of water to households and the treatment of sewage, both of which require electric power. It also caused hospitals, already straining to handle the surge of war casualties, to increase their reliance on precarious generators. And it has affected the food supply because the lack of power has shut off refrigerators and forced bakeries to reduce their bread production.

“‘If there were one attack that could be predicted to endanger the health and well-being of the greatest number of people in Gaza, hitting the territorys sole electricity plant would be it,’ said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. ‘Deliberately attacking the power plant would be a war crime.’”



Amnesty International

Mounting evidence of deliberate attacks on Gaza health workers by Israeli army (August 7)
Stop US shipment of fuel to Israel's armed forces as evidence of Gaza war crimes mounts (August 4)
International Criminal Court key to breaking cycle of injustice for war crimes (August 1)
USA: Stop arms transfers to Israel amid growing evidence of war crimes in Gaza (July 31)
Attack on UN school in Gaza a potential war crime that must be investigated (July 30)
Israel/Gaza conflict: Questions and Answers (July 25)
Attacks on medical facilities and civilians add to war crime allegations (July 21)



Israeli authorities have proven they cannot investigate suspected violations of international humanitarian law by Israel in the Gaza Strip (September 5) 
Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Yesh Din: Israel is unwilling to investigate harm caused to Palestinians (September 4) 
Death Foretold: The inevitable outcome of bombing homes and inhabited areas in Gaza (August 12)
Families bombed at home, Gaza, July-August 2014 (initial figures) (August 11) 10 Human Rights Organizations in an Urgent Letter to Attorney General: Concerns Regarding Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law in the IDF's Operations in Gaza (July 21)


Defence for Children International – Palestine Section

Death toll of Palestinian children spirals as Israel expands Gaza offensive (July 24) 


Human Rights Watch 

Human Rights Watch Letter to US State Secretary: Suspend Providing Israel with Weapons Documented to Have Been Used to Commission War Crimes, Help UN Fact-Finding Mission into Gaza (August 11) 
Gaza: Widespread Impact of Power Plant Attack Curtailed Sewage Treatment, Food and Water Supply, Hospital Operations  (August 10) 
Israeli Soldiers Shoot and Kill Fleeing Civilians (August 4)
Airstrike Deaths Raise Concerns on Ground Offensive: Unlawful Israeli Attacks Hit Hospital, Kill Children, Other Civilians (July 22)
Unlawful Israeli Airstrikes Kill Civilians: Bombings of Civilian Structures Suggest Illegal Policy (July 16) 


Institute for Middle East Understanding 

Expert Q&A: Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch on Being Denied Entry to Gaza (August 27)
Putting Palestinians “On a Diet”: Israel’s Siege & Blockade of Gaza (August 14)



No safe place for children in Gaza (July 28)