Gaza Crisis Update (August 22, 2014)
PHOTO: A child surveys the destruction of the neighborhood of Sha'af in the Shejaiya district of Gaza. (Jehad Saftawi/IMEU)
For further reference, see our recently released fact sheet, Putting Palestinians "On a Diet": Israel's Siege & Blockade of Gaza, and our recently released expert Q&A, Analyst Mouin Rabbani on the Gaza Crisis.
Notable Incidents of Civilian Casualties • Attacks on Medical Facilities and Medical Workers
Attacks on Media: Journalists Killed and Injured • Statements and Reports From Human Rights Organizations
- Since July 7, Israel has killed at least 2087 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 475 children and 246 women. Almost 10,500 others have been wounded. On Thursday alone, at least 38 Palestinians were killed in Gaza.
- In a series of major provocations following the breakdown of a temporary ceasefire, Israel attempted to assassinate Hamas’ top military commander, Muhammad Deif, killing six civilians in a missile attack on Tuesday, including one of the intended target’s wives and his infant son and three-year-old daughter, as well as two other children, and on Thursday Israel assassinated three other senior Hamas commanders in an attack in Rafah in southern Gaza that also killed seven others, including at least two children, one of them a four-year-old girl. (For further reference, see previously released IMEU fact sheet, Israel's History of Assassinating Palestinian Leaders.) Amongst those killed in Thursday’s attack were Hassan Hussein Younis and Amal Ibrahim Younis - Al Bilbisi, the father and stepmother of the director of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Issam Younis.
- On Wednesday (August 20), seven members of the al-Louh family, including three men, a pregnant woman, and three children, were killed by an Israeli missile attack on two homes in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. The following day, an eighth member of the family, an 18-year-old girl, died of her wounds.
- According to the United Nations, since Israel began its latest assault on Gaza on July 7 at least 140 Palestinian families have had three or more members killed in the same Israeli attack, for a total of 735 people killed (see here for UN graph showing incidents by date). 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.”
“Of particular concern is the alarming number of incidents since the onset of the emergency in which multiple members of the same family have been killed.”
- According to the United Nations, as of yesterday (August 21) at 1 AM ET (8 AM in Palestine/Israel):
- 1444 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza, including 475 children and 246 women. The number of children killed exceeds the combined number of children killed in the last two major Israeli assaults on Gaza, 350 in 2008-9 and 35 in 2012.
- According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of August 20, 10,224 Palestinians had been injured, including 3,106 children and 1,970 women.
- It’s estimated that 1000 of the more than 3000 children who have been injured will suffer from a permanent disability. As many as 1500 children may have been orphaned. Six thousand other children will have a parent with a life-long disability.
- It is estimated 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.
- 435,000 Palestinians are taking refuge at United Nations facilities, government shelters and with host families.
- Almost all of Gaza's approximately 1.8 million people have been affected by the conflict and require food and other assistance to recover.
- Between July 7 and August 20, Israeli attacks completely destroyed or severely damaged an estimated 17,200 housing units in Gaza. It is estimated that at least 100,000 Palestinians have lost their homes. (See here for UN Gaza Crisis Atlas, showing geographic distribution of attacks.)
- As of August 15, at least 216 schools in Gaza, including 141 government schools, 75 UNRWA schools, and four private/kindergarten schools, were partially damaged due to Israeli airstrikes or shelling. At least 25 schools were reportedly severely damaged, to the extent that they can no longer be used. At least six teachers are known to have been killed.
- At least 24 medical facilities have been damaged since July 8.
- Families relying on agricultural-related livelihoods need food, other immediate assistance and support to re-establish their sources of income. New equipment for 3,600 fishermen should be provided in order to re-establish their livelihood.
- Approximately 55,000 livestock heads are in need of animal feed and water tanks in order to avoid further loss of livestock and additional erosion of productive assets.
NOTABLE INCIDENTS OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
- On August 21:
- On August 20, seven members of the al-Louh family, including three men, a pregnant woman, and three children, were killed by an Israeli missile attack on two homes in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. The following day, an eighth member of the family, an 18-year-old girl, died of her wounds.
- On August 3:
- An Israeli missile strike outside of a United Nations 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 10 days. Approximately 30 people were killed in the two previous incidents. It was the seventh time a UN shelter has been hit by Israeli fire during the current assault.
- 10 members of the al-Ghoul family, including three children and two women, were killed, and 20 others injured by an Israeli missile attack on their home in Rafah. The dead included a baby who was less then three weeks old.
- Eight members of the Najim family were killed, and 30 others wounded, by an airstrike on a home in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza. The victims had returned to Jabalia after the Israeli army announced on Saturday that residents of northern Gaza could return to their homes. The dead included Bilal Abd al-Karim Najim, Abd al-Karim Najim, Ahmad Abd al-Karim Najim, Raghad Najim, and Suha Najim.
- On August 2, six members of the Abu Madi family were killed, including four children, when Israeli forces fired a missile into their home in the Nuseirat refugee camp.
- On August 1, the Israeli military killed at least 150 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others in Gaza after an Israeli soldier was reportedly taken as a prisoner of war by Palestinian fighters (he was later declared dead by Israel). In Rafah in southern Gaza alone, near where the soldier went missing, at least 123 people were killed, including 30 children and 14 women.
Amongst those killed on August 1 were nine members of the El-Farra family, including five children, who were killed by the Israeli military in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. The dead were 54-year-old Abed Almalek Abed Al Salam El-Farra, 34-year-old Osamah Abed Almalek El-Farra, 29-year-old Awatef A'ez Eldeen El-Farra, 28-year-old Emad El-Farra, 12-year-old Mohamad Mahmoud El-Farra, nine-year-old Nadeen Mahmoud El-Farra, Yara Abed Al Salam El-Farra and Abed Al Rahaman El-Farra, both eight-years-old, and four-year-old Lujain Basem El-Farra.
- On July 31, four members of the al Bayoumi family, three members of the Al Assar family, and three members of the Abu Shouqa family were killed by an Israeli airstrike on a home in the al-Nusairat refugee camp in central Gaza. The dead included six children and five women.
- 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 gave the Israeli military GPS coordinates for the school 17 times since July 16 in an attempt to ensure it wasn’t attacked.
- An Israeli attack killed 17 Palestinians and wounded approximately 200 others in a crowded market in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City in an incident that was captured on video (WARNING: Disturbing images). The victims included a Palestinian photojournalist, Rami Rayan, and two paramedics.
- Also on July 30, the Israeli military carried out a number of attacks that killed multiple members of several different Palestinian families in Gaza. They included:
- Sixteen members of the Abu Amer family, including four children, were killed when Israeli forces shelled their apartment building in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. The same attack, which killed at least 35 people in total, also killed seven members of the al Najar family, six members of the Breeka family, and four members of the Mu’ammar family. At least 18 children were among the dead.
- Israeli shelling killed 11 members of the Balata family, including five women and four children, in Jabalia in northern Gaza.
- Israeli shelling killed seven members of the al Khalili family as they ate breakfast, including three children and two women, one of whom was pregnant. Another child was critically injured in the attack.
- Israeli attacks killed six members each from the Hamouda and Abed-Rabbo families, including six women and five children.
- On July 29:
- On July 28, 10 people, including eight children, were killed and 40 others wounded by an explosion in a park near the beach in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. Although the Israeli military denied responsibility, as it did on several other similar occasions previously during the current conflict before reversing itself, eyewitnesses stated that the explosion was caused by an Israeli airstrike.
- On July 26:
- The bodies of 11 members of the Hilo family were pulled from the rubble of their home in Shejaiya, which was bombarded by the Israeli military a week before. According to a relative, they had received phone calls and leaflets from the Israeli military on July 29 telling them to leave, but that shelling had already begun and they didn’t think it was safe to leave.
- Shortly before a 12-hour ceasefire came into effect, approximately 20 members of the Al-Najar family were killed, including 11 children, and many others wounded when their home was attacked by the Israeli military in southern Gaza. According to reports, they had been trapped inside the home since Thursday.
- On July 25, 15-year-old Adullah Alathamna, who lost his mother, two sisters, and a foot when the Israeli military bombed his home in 2006, was injured again by an Israeli attack, suffering shrapnel wounds to the back and leg when Israeli forces bombed his home again.
- On July 24:
- A UN school in Beit Hanoun where approximately 1500 IDPs were sheltering was struck by several missiles, killing at least 16 people and injuring 150 others. Late Thursday the Israeli military acknowledged that it had fired into the area at the time of the incident, claiming they were responding to hostile fire. 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. Over the past three days, the Israeli military has attacked UN schools housing IDPs on t hree different occasions, despite the fact that the UN has provided the military with precise GPS coordinates for all of its facilities.
- The Israeli military killed at least ten members of the al-Astal family, including three children, in two separate attacks on civilian homes in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. According to the UN, in one of the incidents, Israeli forces fired on civilians attempting to aid the survivors of the initial strike. At least six other members of the al-Astal family have been killed by the Israeli military in the past week.
- Israeli forces killed five members of the Abu Aita family, including an eleven-year-old boy in Jabalia in northern Gaza. The dead were 67-year-old Ibrahim Abdullah Abu Aita, 65-year-old Jamila Salim Abu Aita, 30-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim Abdullah Abu Aita, and 11-year-old Adham Ahmad Abu Aita.
- On July 22:
- On July 21:
- On July 20:
- The Israeli military launched a bloody assault against the residential neighborhood of Shejaiya in Gaza City, killing more than 66 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.”
- Seven members of the al Hallaq family were killed, including three children and a pregnant woman, by an Israeli missile strike on a home where they were taking shelter in Gaza City. The family had moved to a relative’s house in the center of the city from their home on the outskirts, which they feared wouldn’t be safe from Israeli attacks.
- 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 the Zuwaid 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:
- On July 16, four young boys were killed and three others injured, by Israeli shelling on the beach in Gaza City. The dead, all cousins, were Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakariya Ahed Bakr, who were ten years old, eleven-year-old Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, and nine-year-old Ismail Mahmoud Bakr.
- On July 13, 18 members of the al-Batsh 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
- On August 3, the Al Amal hospital in Khan Yunis was reportedly hit by an Israeli missile.
- On August 1, the Israeli military shelled Najjar hospital in Rafah in southern Gaza, forcing the evacuation of patients and staff.
- Also on August 1, paramedic Atef Zamili was killed, and seven others injured by an Israeli attack on his ambulance. His death brought to 16 the number of health workers killed by Israel since the current offensive began.
- On July 30, two paramedics were killed by an Israeli attack on a market in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, which also killed 15 others.
- On July 29, the Israeli military killed a UN doctor and his brother in northern Gaza.
- On July 25, Israeli forces heavily shelled Beit Hanoun Hospital while patients, staff and international activists sheltered inside.
- Also on July 25, Israeli forces fired on an ambulance that was traveling to pick up wounded, killing one medic and seriously wounding a second.
- On July 24, two-year-old Ibrahim al-Sheikh Omar was killed while in the intensive care unit of Muhammad al-Durra hospital by shrapnel from an Israeli airstrike outside the building. Thirty others were wounded in the attack.
- On July 23, the Israeli military shelled the Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital east of Gaza City seriously damaging the building. Between July 11 and July 17, Israeli forces attacked the hospital on three occasions, injuring four patients and staff.
- Also on June 23, Israeli tanks fired a number of shells into the garden of the Beit Hanoun Hospital, damaging the water network and reportedly injuring ambulance drivers.
- On July 21, Israel attacked the Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza, killing four people and injuring 40 others.
- On July 12, an Israeli airstrike killed two residents of a special needs facility in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza and seriously wounded several others. The dead were 31-year-old Ola Washahi and 47-year-old Suha Abu Saada, who both suffered from severe mental and physical handicaps.
ATTACKS ON MEDIA/JOURNALISTS KILLED & INJURED
- On July 31, Palestinian journalist Muhammad Daher died from wounds sustained in an earlier Israeli attack that killed several members of his family. His death brought to nine the total of journalists killed by the Israeli military since the current assault began.
- On July 30, Palestinian photojournalists Rami Rayan and Sameh al-Aryan were killed by an Israeli attack on a busy market in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. At least 16 others were killed in the attack.
- Also on July 30, Israeli forces attacked a building housing media offices in Gaza. No casualties were reported.
- On July 22, journalists working for Al Jazeera evacuated the offices of its Gaza bureau after Israeli forces fired on the building twice. The previous day, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was quoted saying that the respected news outlet “stands at the heart of the propaganda of terrorist organizations.”
- On July 20, a Palestinian cameraman, 25-year-old Khaled Hamad, was killed by Israeli shelling in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.
- On July 18, Israel bombed a building containing media offices in Gaza City, injuring a Palestinian photojournalist.
- On July 15, a driver working for The New York Times was slightly injured by an Israeli rocket attack on a house in Gaza City.
- On July 8, Israel bombed a car used by Palestinian journalists, even though it was clearly marked as media, killing the driver and wounding three reporters who were inside.
STATEMENTS/REPORTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
(Bolding by IMEU)
- On August 11, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry urging the Obama administration to support the UN fact-finding mission into the actions of both sides in the current conflict, and to suspend “the provision of weapons to Israel that have been documented or credibly alleged to have been used in the commission of war crimes or other serious laws-of-war violations, as well as funding and support for such materiel.” The letter noted:
“During the first two weeks of this fighting alone, Israeli strikes in Gaza used more than 3,000 tons of explosives. These attacks and the ground offensive that began on July 17 have killed more than 1,800 Palestinians as of August 5, the great majority of them civilians, including at least 408 children, according to the United Nations.
“In many of the cases resulting in civilian casualties that Human Rights Watch has been able to investigate thus far, the Israeli attacks did not appear directed at a legitimate military target, or the attack was launched despite the likelihood of civilian harm being disproportionate to the military gain. Human Rights Watch and other independent organizations have repeatedly documented such unlawful attacks by Israel causing high civilian casualties. When such attacks are carried out deliberately or recklessly they constitute war crimes.
“Israeli forces have also unlawfully targeted non-combatant members of Hamas, their homes, and governmental infrastructure without providing information that they were military objectives. They have also unlawfully and apparently punitively targeted family homes on the sole basis that residents included alleged members of Palestinian armed groups, regardless of whether those persons were at home. Israel has asserted as a matter of policy – contrary to the laws of war – that civilian members of Hamas or other groups who do not have a military role are nonetheless “terrorists” and therefore valid military targets; in previous military operations in Gaza Israel has carried out hundreds of unlawful attacks on this basis. Israel has also targeted family homes of alleged members of armed groups without showing that the structure was being used for military purposes. Further investigations are needed to determine whether Israeli air or ground attacks that have destroyed or extensively damaged homes, schools, United Nations facilities, civilian infrastructure, and hospitals, often causing high numbers of civilian casualties, were in accordance with the laws of war.”
- 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 Gaza, which have left six medics dead, said Amnesty International as it released disturbing testimonies from doctors, nurses, and ambulance personnel working in the area.
“‘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.’”
- On August 4, Human Rights Watch issued a report entitled “Israeli Soldiers Shoot and Kill Fleeing Civilians,” detailing several incidents between July 23 and July 25 in which Israeli soldiers deliberately fired on Palestinian civilians in Khuza in southern Gaza. After describing two such incidents, the report noted:
“Previous fighting in Gaza between Israeli and Hamas forces and other Palestinian armed groups has resulted in near-total impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should urgently seek International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction over crimes committed on and from Palestinian territory, as a step toward reducing the accountability gap for grave abuses and deterring crimes in violation of international law.”
- Also on August 4, Amnesty International released a statement entitled “Stop US shipment of fuel to Israel's armed forces as evidence of Gaza war crimes mounts,” which read in part:
“Amnesty International is appealing to the US government to immediately halt the transfer of a US fuel shipment currently on its way to Israel for use by the Israeli military. The organization has repeatedly called for a comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict, amidst mounting evidence that war crimes are being committed by both sides in the past four weeks in Gaza.
“The US government has continued to supply hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel, including fuel for fighter jets and military vehicles, to Israel’s armed forces despite a soaring civilian death toll from aerial and other military attacks. The last US jet fuel delivery arrived in Israel on 14 July, a week after the conflict began. Nine previous shipments were made from the US to Israel during 2013 and 2014. A fuel tanker with the latest US fuel shipment is now sailing past the Azores and is due to arrive in Israel on 12 August.
“‘By continuing to supply fuel for military vehicles and fighter jets being used in attacks resulting in mounting civilian deaths and horrific injuries, the US government will have more blood on its hands,’ said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.
“‘Instead of continuing to send shipments of fuel and arms to the Israeli military, the USA must immediately suspend all such transfers and back an international investigation into the atrocities being carried out by both sides.”
- In its August 1 daily Gaza emergency update, the UN noted:
“Human rights organizations have expressed serious concern 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, or the launching of indiscriminate attacks.
“In this context, of increasing concern is the number of incidents since the onset of the emergency in which multiple members of the same family have been killed. Up to 30 July, at least 76 families have lost three or more family members in the same incident, for a total of 407 fatalities.”
- Also on August 1, Amnesty International released a statement entitled, “International Criminal Court key to breaking cycle of injustice for war crimes,” which read in part:
“The UN Security Council has repeatedly failed to take effective action to respond to violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories or hold perpetrators accountable, in large part because of opposition from the USA, which has repeatedly vetoed resolutions critical of Israel. On some occasions the USA has been the sole voice against all other members of the Council.”
“Amnesty International is also calling on both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to support a Security Council referral, and take other measures that would allow the ICC to step in and ensure their co-operation with the Court.
“In particular, the organization calls on the Palestinian Authority to submit a declaration accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction over crimes under international law committed since 1 July 2002, when the Court was established. Amnesty International also calls on the Palestinian Authority to become a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.”
“The Palestinian Authority has been consistently pressured by the USA, Israel, Canada, the UK and other EU Member States not to take steps to grant the ICC jurisdiction; such pressure has included threats to withdraw financial assistance on which the Palestinian Authority depends.”
- Also on August 1, Oxfam released a statement entitled, “Gaza crisis spiralling out of control,” which read in part:
“The crisis in Gaza is fast spiralling out of control with water supplies critically low and a public health crisis imminent… The collapse of the latest brief ceasefire announcement means many more lives will be at risk.
“Conditions are increasingly desperate in overcrowded schools and buildings where up to 450,000 people are sheltering. Many people are getting as little as three litres of safe water a day, far below international emergency standards. Massive destruction of water and sewage systems and electricity supplies has reduced water supply to Gaza's entire population of 1.8 million people. Spills of raw sewage threaten to contaminate water sources and the threat of disease is rising. There are already reports of 30 cases of meningitis, as well as skin diseases among children and cases of gastroenteritis.”
“The destruction of Gaza's only power plant earlier this week has plunged much of Gaza into darkness and left vital water pumps struggling to keep going. Three of Gaza's four main power supplies have now been completely destroyed or extensively damaged by the violence of the past few weeks, cutting off more than 80 percent of Gaza's power. Most municipal water supplies have now stopped running.
“’The outrageous level of destruction is much worse than anything we have seen in previous military operations and the situation is getting worse by the hour. Tens of thousands of families have fled but are trapped with nowhere safe to escape, sheltering in horrific conditions and terrified to move. The international community's response to such suffering has so far been shamefully weak. Every day that this goes on is putting many more civilian lives at risk,’ said Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.
“Hospitals that Oxfam works with are struggling to cope. Six of the nine busiest hospitals in Gaza have been directly hit or badly damaged, with three of them now closed. Another four Oxfam-supported health clinics and many others have been damaged or shut. Many health facilities are running short of fuel to keep life-saving operations going.
“’Oxfam condemns the rockets that continue to be fired from Gaza towards Israel, but this does not justify Israel's outrageously disproportionate use of force which has killed so many civilians and destroyed so much of Gaza. All civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli, have the right to live in security, but military operations that bring such levels of death and destruction will not make anyone safer in the long term,’ said Pandey.
“Oxfam said the international community must do much more to ensure an urgent and permanent ceasefire, but that lasting peace will only be possible with an end to the ongoing blockade of Gaza. For the past seven years people in Gaza have been living under an Israeli blockade which prevents the free flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza, devastating the economy and severely restricting people's livelihoods.”
- On July 31, Amnesty International released a statement entitled, “Stop arms transfers to Israel amid growing evidence of war crimes in Gaza,” which read in part:
“The US government must immediately end its ongoing deliveries of large quantities of arms to Israel, which are providing the tools to commit further serious violations of international law in Gaza.”
“The call comes amid reports that the Pentagon has approved the immediate transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to the Israeli armed forces from a US arms stockpile pre-positioned in Israel, and follows a shipment of 4.3 tons of US-manufactured rocket motors, which arrived in the Israeli port of Haifa on 15 July.
“These deliveries add to more than US$62 million worth of munitions, including guided missile parts and rocket launchers, artillery parts and small arms, already exported from the USA to Israel between January and May this year.
“’The US government is adding fuel to the fire by continuing its supply of the type of arms being used by Israel’s armed forces to violate human rights. The US government must accept that by repeatedly shipping and paying for such arms on this scale they are exacerbating and further enabling grave abuses to be committed against civilians during the conflict in Gaza,’ said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.”
“The news on 30 July that the USA had allowed the resupply of munitions to Israel came the same day the US government condemned the shelling of a UN school in Gaza which killed at least 20 people, including children and UN humanitarian workers.
“’It is deeply cynical for the White House to condemn the deaths and injuries of Palestinians, including children, and humanitarian workers, when it knows full well that the Israeli military responsible for such attacks are armed to the teeth with weapons and equipment bankrolled by US taxpayers,’ said Brian Wood.”
- On July 30, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, issued a statement which read in part:
“After three weeks of conflict, no one can doubt that there are no safe places for the children of Gaza. Today, another UN school, used to shelter 3,300 displaced people was hit by Israeli shelling, despite clear information provided to the Israeli army from the UN that the school was housing IDPs. Civilians, including children, were killed and injured. I strongly condemn this grave violation of international law.”
- Also on July 30, in its 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.”
- Also on July 30, Amnesty International issued a statement entitled, Attack on UN school in Gaza a potential war crime that must be investigated, which read in part:
“An attack overnight on the Jabaliya elementary school in Gaza, where more than 3,000 displaced civilians had sought refuge, is a possible war crime and should be independently investigated, said Amnesty International today. The attack killed at least 20 people and injured dozens more at the school, which is located inside the very densely populated Jabaliya Refugee Camp.
“An initial assessment by UNRWA – the UN relief agency for displaced Palestinians and refugees - who analysed fragments and damage at the site, indicates the school was hit by Israeli artillery despite the fact that UNRWA shared its coordinates with the Israeli army 17 times. The strike is the sixth attack on a UN-run school in Gaza since Operation ‘Protective Edge’ began on 8 July.”
“’If the strike on this school was the result of Israeli artillery fire it would constitute an indiscriminate attack and a likely war crime. Artillery should never be used against targets in crowded civilian areas and its use in such a manner would never be considered a “surgical” strike,’ said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
“’As the civilian death toll continues to mount at an alarming rate, Israel has an obligation to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from harm. It is appalling that civilians who have heeded Israeli warnings to flee their homes have been killed and injured overnight in the presumed sanctuary of a UN school.’
“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.”
- On July 28, UNICEF released a statement entitled “No safe place for children in Gaza.” In the statement, the Chief of UNICEF’s Gaza field office, Pernille Ironside, declared: “The physical and psychological toll that the violence is having on people is almost indescribable… We see children killed, injured, mutilated and burnt, in addition to being terrified to their core.”
- Also on July 28, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon condemned both Israel and Hamas for the ongoing violence and warned that Israeli attacks on Gaza raised "serious questions about proportionality.”
- On July 25, Amnesty International issued a document entitled “Israel/Gaza conflict: Questions and Answers,” which read in part:
“Israeli forces have carried out attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians, using precision weaponry such as drone-fired missiles, as well as munitions such as artillery, which cannot be precisely targeted, on very densely populated residential areas, such as Shuja’iyyeh. They have also directly attacked thousands of homes. 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.
Regarding Israeli claims that Hamas and other Palestinian groups have been using civilians as “human shields,” the document stated:
“Although the Israeli authorities claim to be warning civilians in Gaza, a consistent pattern has emerged that their actions do not constitute an ‘effective warning’ under international humanitarian law. Israeli attacks have also caused mass displacement of Palestinian civilians within the Gaza Strip.”
“Effective advance warning to civilians is only one of the prescribed precautions in attack aimed at minimizing harm to civilians. When Israeli forces have given warning in many cases key elements of effective warning have been missing, including timeliness, informing civilians where it is safe to flee, and providing safe passage and sufficient time to flee before an attack. There also have been reports of lethal strikes launched too soon after a warning to spare civilians. In any event, issuing a warning does not absolve an attacking force of its obligations to spare civilians, including by taking all other necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian structures. Israel’s continuing military blockade on the Gaza Strip and the closure of the Rafah crossing by the Egyptian authorities since the hostilities began mean that civilians in Gaza cannot flee to neighbouring countries.”
“Amnesty International is monitoring and investigating such reports, but does not have evidence at this point that Palestinian civilians have been intentionally used by Hamas or Palestinian armed groups during the current hostilities to ‘shield’ specific locations or military personnel or equipment from Israeli attacks.”
“Reports have also emerged during the current conflict of Hamas urging residents to ignore Israeli warnings to evacuate. However, these calls may have been motivated by a desire to minimize panic and displacement, in any case, such statements are not the same as directing specific civilians to remain in their homes as ‘human shields’ for fighters, munitions, or military equipment. Under international humanitarian law even if ‘human shields’ are being used Israel’s obligations to protect these civilians would still apply.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Also 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, expressed 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’.”
- Also 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.”