Gaza Crisis Update (July 30, 2014)

July 30, 2014 IMEU
Gaza Crisis Update (July 30, 2014)
PHOTO: Lara Aburamadan

 

For background on the military strategy that Israel is employing in Gaza, which has caused massive civilian casualties, see our previously released fact sheet, The Dahiya Doctrine and Israel’s Use of Disproportionate Force. For background on Israeli allegations that Hamas has been using civilians as human shields in Gaza, see our previously released fact sheet, The Neighbor Procedure: Israel’s Use of Palestinian Human Shields, our recently released expert FAQ, Misperceptions about the Conflict in Gaza, as well as the Amnesty International report excerpted below.

 

  • Since July 7, Israel has killed more than 1231 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 243 children. More than 7000 others have been injured.
  • Today, (July 30), at least 15 civilians were killed and almost 100 wounded when Israeli tanks shelled a UN school where internally displaced people were taking shelter in Jabalia in northern Gaza.
  • On Tuesday (July 29), the Israeli military killed 16 members of the Abu Jabber family, including four children, in the al Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
  • Also on Tuesday, 13 members of the al-Agha family were killed, including four children, by Israeli airstrikes on three homes in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
  • Also on Tuesday, the Israeli military killed a UN doctor and his brother in northern Gaza.
  • Also on Tuesday, Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant, which supplies 2/3 of Gaza’s electricity, putting it out of commission. Regarding the impact on Gaza’s already severely damaged electrical grid, the UN noted “the additional reduction in electricity supply is expected to have a pervasive impact on the availability of food and access of people to basic services.”
  • According to the United Nations, as of yesterday (July 29) at 8 AM ET:
    • At least 827 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 243 children and 131 women.
    • At least 270,000 children require specialized psychosocial support (PSS) due to trauma caused by the death or injury of someone they know or loss of home.
    • 240,000 internally displaced people (IDP) are sheltering in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and government schools, informal shelters or host families. UN schools are sheltering approximately 180,000 people, which amounts to 10% of the population of the Gaza Strip, and is triple the number who took refuge with UNRWA during Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, Operation Cast Lead. On Tuesday (July 29), UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness warned that the organziation had reached a “breaking point,” stating:
      "We have reached breaking point with this massive wave of human displacement. This will leave the warring parties, especially the government of Israel, to assume direct responsibility [for displaced Palestinians].”
    • Twenty-two hospitals, clinics and medical centers have been hit by Israeli airstrikes or shelling since July 8. At least two doctors and two medics have been killed.
    • Israel has destroyed or severely damaged approximately 750 residential properties, including numerous multi-story buildings, causing hundreds of civilian casualties.
    • 133 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

 

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.

 

ATTACKS ON MEDICAL FACILITIES & MEDICAL WORKERS

 

ATTACKS ON MEDIA

 

STATEMENTS/REPORTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS

(Bolding by IMEU)

  • 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.”