Gaza Crisis Update (July 28, 2014)
PHOTO: Gaza, July 26, 2014 (Jehad Saftawi/IMEU)
- Since July 7, Israel has killed at least 1032 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 226 children. More than 6200 others have been wounded.
- On July 27, the Israeli military admitted that it opened fire on the courtyard of a UN school three days earlier in Beit Hanoun, where 16 Palestinians sheltering from the fighting were killed and scores more wounded. However, contrary to evidence supplied by eyewitnesses, journalists, and UN officials, Israel denied that its shelling of the school caused any deaths.
- Since July 7, at least 44 families in Gaza have lost at least three or more members killed by the Israeli military in the same incident, totaling more than 250 people. During the 12-hour ceasefire on July 26, 11 members of the Hilo family were pulled from the rubble in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. Earlier in the day, before the ceasefire came into effect, approximately 20 members of the Al-Najar family were killed, including 11 children, and many others were wounded when their home was attacked by the Israeli military in southern Gaza.
- According to the United Nations, as of yesterday (July 27) at 8 AM ET:
- At least 760 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 226 children and 117 women.
- More than 6200 Palestinians have been injured, including more than 1900 children and 1100 women.
- 215,000 internally displaced people (IDP) are sheltering in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and government schools, informal shelters or host families.
- At least 194,000 children require specialized psychosocial support (PSS) due to trauma caused by the death or injury of someone they know or loss of home.
- Twenty-two hospitals, clinics and medical centers have been hit by Israeli airstrikes or shelling since July 8. At least one doctor and two medics have been killed.
- Israel has destroyed or severely damaged approximately 685 residential properties, including numerous multi-story buildings, causing hundreds of civilian casualties.
- Since July 7, 130 schools have been damaged. At least six teachers are known to have been killed.
- The Israeli army has declared 44% of the tiny Gaza Strip a military “buffer zone.”
NOTABLE INCIDENTS OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
- 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.
- On July 26, 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 three different occasions, despite the fact that the UN has provided the military with precise GPS coordinates for all of its facilities.
- On July 24, 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.
- Also on July 24, 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, Israeli forces killed four members of the Hajjaj family in Gaza City. The dead were 15-year-old Rawan Ziad Hajjaj, 28-year-old Yousef Muhammed Hajjaj, 31-year-old Muhammad Shehadeh Hajjaj, and 66-year-old Fayzeh Saleh Hajjaj.
- Also on July 22, the Israeli military killed two elderly women in Rafah in southern Gaza. The dead were 75-year-old Hakema Nafe Abu Odwan, and 85-year-old Najah Nafe Abu Odwan.
- On July 21, the Israeli military carried out a number of attacks that killed multiple members of several different Palestinian families in Gaza. They included:
- Approximately 25 members of the Abu Jamea family and three others were killed by an Israeli missile strike on a home in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. The dead included 18 children and five women, two of who were reportedly pregnant.
- Ten members of the al-Qassas family were killed, including six children, and four others wounded when Israeli forces shelled their home in Gaza City. The dead children were 3-year-old Saman, 4-year-olds Arwa and Mohamad, Isra’ and Nesma, both 7, and 13-year-old Layma.
- Eleven people, including six members of the Kelani family, were killed and 40 others injured, when Israeli warplanes attacked a high-rise apartment building in Gaza City, reducing most of it to rubble. The dead family were Ibrahim Kelani, his wife and their four young children.
- 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.”
- 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 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, 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.
- Also 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, 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, 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
- In its Gaza situation report on June 25, the UN expressed alarm over the Israeli military’s targeting of ambulances, stating:“Incidents of ambulances being hit are of increasing concern. Yesterday around midnight, a Ministry of Health ambulance was hit several times during an Israeli attack in Khan Younis; civilians, who tried to evacuate the ambulance staff, reportedly came under fire, which injured three of them. When a PRCS ambulance arrived at the site and tried to evacuate the wounded, several missiles were shot next to it, injuring the driver and damaging the vehicle.”
- On July 25, Israeli forces heavily shelled Beit Hanoun Hospital while patients, staff and international activists sheltered inside.
- 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.
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 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.
DAMAGE TO CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE
- According to the UN:
- Although the 12-hour ceasefire on July 26 allowed workers to repair some of the damage done to Gaza’s electrical grid by Israeli attacks, power outages continue for some 20 hours a day.
- All water pumps and equipment for wells, sewage pumping stations, wastewater treatment plants and desalination plants have been affected by the sharp reduction in electricity supply. Those facilities without generators have shut down, while the rest are affected by an ongoing scarcity of fuel. As a result, the vast majority of the population has reduced access to water: due to the lower pressure in the network, water cannot reach certain streets, areas of higher altitude, and upper levels of multi-story buildings. Several areas are exposed to public health risks due to the mixing of sewage with piped water, as a result of unrepaired damages to the networks.
- 1.2 million Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from severe disruptions to water supplies and sewage systems.
- 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.
ATTACKS ON MEDIA
- 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 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.”
Regarding Israeli claims that Hamas and other Palestinian groups have been using civilians as “human shields,” the document stated:
“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.”
- 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.”