Gaza Crisis Update (August 4, 2014)

August 04, 2014 IMEU
Gaza Crisis Update (August 4, 2014)
Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, July 29, 2014 (Jehad Saftawi/IMEU)

  • Since July 7, Israel has killed at least 1822 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 377 children. Approximately 9400 others have been injured.
  • On Sunday (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.
  • Also on Sunday, 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.
  • Also on Sunday, 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 go back 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.
  • According to the August 3 UN daily Gaza emergency report: “Gaza’s medical services and facilities are nearing collapse, with hospitals and clinics overwhelmed. Critical supplies of medicines and disposables are almost depleted and the destruction of power supplies has left hospitals dependent on unreliable back-up generators. The status of hospitals and medical facilities as protected objects under international law continues to be violated with more attacks reported since the last situation update.” According to medical officials in Gaza, cases of viral meningitis have increased from five to 53 per day, while Israeli attacks are preventing the collection of decomposing bodies, posing a significant health risk.
  • According to the United Nations, as of yesterday (August 3) at 8 AM ET:
  • At least 1176 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 377 children and 196 women. As of July 30, at least 76 families had lost three or more family members in the same incident, totaling 407 fatalities.
  • As many as 485,000 people (almost one quarter of Gaza’s population) may be internally displaced (IDP), with 270,000 people taking refuge in UN shelters alone.
  • 1.5 million people not in shelters have no or extremely restricted access to water. There is an urgent need for drinking water and water for domestic use as well as access to sanitation and hygiene articles for IDPs.
  • An estimated 485,000 IDPs are in need of emergency food assistance.
  • 373,000 children require specialized psychosocial support (PSS) due to trauma caused by the death or injury of someone they know or loss of home.
  • At least 24 medical facilities have been damaged since July 8. At least two doctors and four medics have been killed. On Sunday (August 3), the Al Amal hospital in Khan Younis was reportedly hit by an Israeli missile.
  • Israel has destroyed or severely damaged at least 4025 housing units, including numerous multi-story buildings, causing hundreds of civilian casualties. Another 4565 housing units have sustained damage.
  • 141 schools have been damaged by Israeli shelling. At least six teachers are known to have been killed.

Attacks on civilians

Attacks on medical facilities & healthcare workers

Attacks on journalists

Shortages of medical specialists, equipment & supplies

  • According to the August 3 UN daily Gaza emergency report:“Gaza’s medical services and facilities are nearing collapse, with hospitals and clinics overwhelmed. Critical supplies of medicines and disposables are almost depleted and the destruction of power supplies has left hospitals dependent on unreliable back-up generators. The status of hospitals and medical facilities as protected objects under international law continues to be violated with more attacks reported since the last situation update.”
  • In its August 1 Gaza daily emergency update, the UN noted: “The establishment of primary health clinics in shelters, alongside delivery of multivitamins and antibiotics, is urgently needed to avoid the outbreak of infectious diseases.”
  • Additionally, according to the UN, insecticides and medicines are needed in Rafah in southern Gaza to treat epidemics such as lice and scabies, which have started to spread in shelters.
  • On July 30, the UN raised alarm at power outages caused by Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s only power plant, noting that while hospitals in Gaza have emergency generators:“Previously, hospital generators have burned out with extensive use, and power fluctuations damage finely calibrated medical equipment. Shifa hospital, for example, is able to provide full power for its operating theatres but cuts its non-essential, but still needed services, in other areas.”

Attacks on civilian infrastructure

  • On July 29, Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant, which supplied 2/3 of Gaza’s electricity, putting it out of commission indefinitely. Regarding the impact on Gaza’s already severely damaged electrical grid, the UN noted “the destruction of Gaza's main power plant earlier in the week has an immediate impact on the public health situation and reduces water and sanitation services; hospitals are currently dependent on generators.” The plant was insured by the US government.
  • Gaza’s entire population of 1.8 million is affected by a halt or reduction of the water supply.

Statements/reports from human rights organizations
(Bolding by IMEU)

  • In its August 3 daily Gaza emergency update, the UN noted:
    “Children continue to bear the brunt of the crisis. The number of children killed stands at 373 with at least 2,744 injured. A minimum of 373,000 children require direct and specialised psychosocial support based on the number of families who have experienced death, injury or loss of home since the beginning of the emergency. Children are showing symptoms of distress and cling to parents, who might also suffer from sleeping and eating disorders, nightmares, nervousness, and feelings of depression, guilt, anger and helplessness. These conditions worsen with the realization that there is no guaranteed safe space in Gaza, including UNRWA schools, as underlined again by the attack this morning in Rafah. On six occasions since the start of the conflict, UNRWA schools sheltering the displaced have been subject to shelling.”
  • 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. ‘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.

    “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.”
    Regarding Israeli claims that Hamas and other Palestinian groups have been using civilians as “human shields,” the document stated:
    “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.”
  • 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.’” 
  • 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.”