Gaza Crisis Update (July 22, 2014)
For background on the military strategy that Israel is employing in Gaza, which has caused massive civilian casualties, see our previously released fact sheet, The Dahiya Doctrine and Israel’s Use of Disproportionate Force.
- Since July 7, Israel has killed at least 584 Palestinians in Gaza, including approximately 121 children.
- According to the United Nations, as of July 21 at 8 AM ET:
- At least 364 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including at least 121 children and 59 women.
- At least 3500 Palestinians have been injured, including at least 1100 children and 608 women.
- 100,000 internally displaced people are sheltering in 69 United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools and tens of thousands of others are taking refuge elsewhere.
- At least 107,000 children require specialized psychosocial support (PSS) due to trauma caused by the death or injury of someone they know or loss of home.
- An estimated 1.2 million people have no or very limited access to water or sanitation services because of damage done to the electrical system or lack of fuel for generators. Repairs to the water and sanitation system are urgently required to avert the outbreak of public health diseases.
- At least 85 schools have been damaged by Israeli shelling.
NOTABLE INCIDENTS OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
- On Monday (July 21), the Israeli military carried out a number of attacks that killed multiple members of several different Palestinian families in Gaza. They included:
- On Sunday (July 20), the Israeli military launched a bloody assault against the residential neighborhood of Shejaiya in Gaza City, killing at least 60 people, including at least 17 children, 14 women and four elderly people. Condemning the high civilian death toll, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Israel’s attack on Shejaiya “atrocious.” In a press release accompanying an open letter to Israel’s attorney general on July 21, ten 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.”
- Also on July 20, a young Palestinian man searching for family members in the rubble of the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City was shot several times and killed by an Israeli sniper in an incident that was captured on video (WARNING: Disturbing images).
- On July 19, five civilians, including four members of one family were killed by Israeli shelling in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. The dead family were Mahmoud Zuwaid, his wife Daliah, and their children three-year-old Nagham, and two-year-old Ruya.
- On July 18, eight members of the Abu Jrad family including four children were killed by an Israeli missile fired into their home in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.
- On July 18, four members of the Shaath family were killed and four others injured including one seriously by an Israeli airstrike on their home in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
- On July 16, four young boys were killed and three others injured, all cousins, by Israeli shelling on the beach in Gaza City. The dead were Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakariya Ahed Bakr, who were ten-years-old, eleven-year-old Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, nine-year-old Ismail Mahmoud Bakr, were all cousins.
- On July 13, 18 members of the same family, including six children and three women, one of them pregnant, were killed, and 16 others injured by Israel in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Gaza’s chief of police by attacking his cousin’s home.
- On July 10, Israeli forces killed 8 members of the Al Haj family, including five children, during an attack on their home in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
- On July 9, Israeli forces killed at least 9 civilians and wounded 16 others as they watched the World Cup at the Fun Time Beach café in southern Gaza.
ATTACKS ON MEDICAL FACILITIES & MEDICAL WORKERS
SHORTAGES OF MEDICAL SPECIALISTS, EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES
- According to the UN, Gaza medical facilities urgently require:
- Shifa hospital urgently needs neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, plastic and general surgeons, and orthopedic specialists, as well as 20 ICU beds, a digital C-ARM machine for orthopedic surgeries, three operation tables and a lighting system for the five operation rooms.
- Psycho-tropic drugs for patients with mental illness, trauma and anxiety, which are in critically short supply.
ATTACKS ON MEDIA
STATEMENTS/REPORTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
(Bolding by IMEU)
- On July 22, Human Rights Watch issued a report entitled “Airstrike Deaths Raise Concerns on Ground Offensive: Unlawful Israeli Attacks Hit Hospital, Kill Children, Other Civilians.” It read in part:
“Israel should cease attacks that cause loss of civilian life and property in violation of the laws of war. 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.”
“The Israeli military’s stated objective for the ground offensive in Gaza is to destroy tunnels, rockets, and other infrastructure used by Palestinian armed groups that Israeli airstrikes could not destroy. The last ground offensive in Gaza, from December 2008 to January 2009, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, many as the result of unlawful air and artillery attacks, and the unlawful destruction of civilian property. Israel prosecuted only four military personnel for offenses during that conflict, and the heaviest sentence handed down was a seven-and-a-half-month prison term for credit card theft, heightening concerns of continuing impunity in the current fighting.”
- On July 21, Amnesty International USA issued a statement entitled “Attacks on Medical Facilities and Civilians Add to War Crime Allegations," noting: "The continuing bombardment of civilian homes in several areas of the Gaza Strip, as well as the Israeli shelling of a hospital, add to the list of possible war crimes that demand an urgent independent international investigation." Regarding Israel’s bloody attack on the Shejaiya (Shuja’iyyeh) neighborhood of Gaza City on Sunday (July 20), which killed at least 60 people, including at least 17 children and 14 women, the statement noted:
“The Israeli military said that Shuja'iyyeh, a densely populated area with some 92,000 residents east of Gaza City, had been targeted because it was a ‘fortress’ housing rockets, tunnels and command centres. Israeli military and government officials have repeatedly said that civilians were warned to evacuate the area days before it was attacked.
“However, many civilians in Shuja'iyyeh and other areas did not evacuate because they had nowhere to go. All the UNRWA schools and other facilities opened as shelters are overflowing. Issuing warnings to evacuate entire areas does not absolve Israeli forces of their obligations to protect civilians under international humanitarian law.”
- On July 21, ten Israeli human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights, sent a letter to Israel's attorney general expressing alarm at the “high rate of civilian casualties,” which “raises concerns about grave violations of international humanitarian law.” The accompanying press release also noted:
“The organizations emphasize that sending alerts or providing warnings to residents does not transform them, or their homes, into legitimate military targets, and does not exempt the army from its duty to avoid executing indiscriminate attacks in the area. ‘In the absence of a protected area for residents that provides shelter and an answer to their humanitarian needs, military commanders can not claim that they have taken sufficient precautions to avoid causing injury’.
“The organizations point in their letter to a number of significant attacks on civilian targets, including the shelling of a cafe that killed 9 civilians, the shelling of a beach that caused the death of 4 children and the bombing of a home for disabled persons that killed 2 residents. Even if there were legitimate military targets in these locations, as was suggested by the IDF spokesperson, the consequences of these attacks raises concerns that insufficient measures were adopted to prevent incurring civilian casualties and that questions of proportionality were not considered in the decision to execute the maneuver.”
“The letter also reviews a number of cases of bombings of residential apartments where, according to the IDF spokesperson, Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives resided. As such, the bombing of the Kwarea family home took the lives of 8 people, 6 of which were children. In the bombing of the Hammad family home that occurred that same evening, 6 people were killed in their sleep. In the bombing of the al-Haj family home, 8 people were killed. Three children from the Shuheiber family, 8 year old and 11 year old boys and their 8-year-old cousin, were killed as a result of a warning missile that was directed at a nearby house. The organizations assert that it is illegal to attack a residential dwelling just because it is the residence of a operative of an enemy organization. Even in the case that the house was used to conduct military operations, there is still a duty to consider questions of proportionality concerning the danger to civilian life.”
- On July 21, Defence for Children International – Palestine Section issued a statement entitled “Death toll of Palestinian children spirals as Israel expands Gaza offensive” which detailed several Israeli attacks that killed children, noting that: “Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip has been characterized by the direct targeting of civilian homes and infrastructure, and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, which constitutes a war crime.”