Gaza Crisis Update (July 24, 2014)

July 24, 2014 IMEU
Gaza Crisis Update (July 24, 2014)
  • Since July 7, Israel has killed at least 718 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 170 children.
  • According to the United Nations, as of July 23 at 8 AM ET:
    • At least 518 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including at least 170 children and 86 women. 
    • During the 24-hour reporting period (July 22-July 23), at least 98 Palestinians were reported killed or their bodies recovered in the rubble of the Shejaiya neighbourhood of Gaza City. Many residents of Shejaiya, including multiple family members, are reportedly still missing under the rubble of their homes.
    • Approximately 4000 Palestinians have been injured, including at least 1200 children and 700 women, as of July 22 at 2 PM ET.
    • 140,000 internally displaced people (IDP) are sheltering in 83 United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools and thousands of others are taking refuge elsewhere. This is more than double the number of Palestinians who took refuge at UN facilities during Israel’s devastating three-week assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, Operation Cast Lead. All are in need of emergency food assistance.
    • Severe “overcrowding, compounded by the limited access of humanitarian staff to certain areas, is increasingly undermining the living conditions at many shelters and raising protection concerns. Water supply has been particularly challenging, with IDPs in some shelters being supplied with as little as three liters (0.8 gallons) per capita per day, to be used for all purposes including drinking and hygiene."
    • At least 125,000 children require specialized psychosocial support (PSS) due to trauma caused by the death or injury of someone they know or loss of home.
    • Israel has destroyed or severely damaged over 564 residential properties, including numerous multi-story buildings, causing many civilian casualties.
    • During the reporting period (July 22-July 23), six UNRWA schools were damaged by Israeli shelling. Since July 7, Israeli attacks have damaged 116 schools.
    • The Israeli army has declared 44% of the tiny Gaza Strip a military “buffer zone.”

 

NOTABLE INCIDENTS OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES 

 

ATTACKS ON MEDICAN FACILITIES & MEDICAL WORKERS 

 

SHORTAGES OF MEDICAL SPECIALISTS, EQUIPMENT, & SUPPLIES

  • According to the UN, Gaza medical facilities urgently require:
    • Shifa hospital urgently requires neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, plastic and general surgeons, and orthopedic specialists, as well as 20 ICU beds, a digit 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

 

DAMAGE TO CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE

  • According to the UN:
    • “Public infrastructure and services continued to be struck and sustain damages, including health facilities and ambulances. In the early morning of 23 July, two Israeli missiles landed in the vicinity of Gaza Power Plant (GPP) causing it to suspend operations. Initial reports suggest that two generators in one of the blocks were damaged by the attack and may need extensive repairs. Power supply is further reduced to a few hours per day in Gaza. GPP engineers are seeking guarantees from the Israeli authorities that they will not be targeted while conducting repairs.”
    • 15 wells and six sewage pumping stations are not operating. Less than half of the required amount of water is being pumped, according to the Municipality of Gaza. Humanitarian access to allow for repairs of wells, sewage pumping station and water and sewage lines is urgently needed to avert the outbreak of public health diseases. Several areas are experiencing sewage flooding, in particular in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, posing public health hazards.
       
    • 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 sewage system are urgently required to avert the outbreak of public health diseases.
       
    • The vast majority of households in Gaza have electricity for no more than four hours a day.
       
  • On July 23, the Palestine Cellular Communications Company announced that Gaza’s only cellular phone network is at risk of going down because of damage done by Israeli bombing.

STATEMENTS/REPORTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS


(Bolding by IMEU)

 

  • 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. The fact that an attempt to warn civilians has been made, does not release the attacker from its obligation to spare 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.”

  • In its July 23 daily emergency update, the UN expressed alarm at the numerous instances of Israeli attacks killing numerous members of the same family, stating:

    “The killing of multiple members of the same families as a result of the targeting of homes remains a matter of serious concern. Human rights organizations have estimated that since the start of the emergency, the Israeli military has targeted and destroyed or severely damaged 564 residential properties, including many multi-story buildings, causing civilian casualties and displacing the survivors.”

  • 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.” It read in part: “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 67 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, expressing alarm at the “high rate of civilian casualties,” which “raises concerns about grave violations of international humanitarian law.” The accompanying press release 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.”