Gaza Crisis Update (July 31, 2014)

July 31, 2014 IMEU
Gaza Crisis Update (July 31, 2014)
Palestinian men in Gaza survey the ruins of buildings bombed by Israel. PHOTO: Jehad Saftawi/IMEU

 
  • Since July 7, Israel has killed at least 1361 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 249 childrenMore than 7600 others have been injured.
  • On Wednesday (July 30), Israel killed at least 130 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded 400 others.
  • On Wednesday, 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.
  • Also on Wednesday, 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 (WARNINGDisturbing images). The victims included a Palestinian photojournalist, Rami Rayan, and two paramedics.
  • Also on Wednesday, Israeli shelling killed 11 members of the Balata family, including five women and four children, in Jabalia in northern Gaza. 
  • Also on Wednesday, Israeli shelling killed seven members of the al Khalili family as they ate breakfast in their home in eastern Gaza City, including three children and two women, one of whom was pregnant. Another child was critically injured in the attack. 
  • Also on Wednesday, Israeli attacks killed six members each from the Hamouda and Abed-Rabbo families, including six women and five children. 
  • According to the United Nations, as of yesterday (July 30) at 8 AM ET:
    • At least 852 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 249 children and 135 women.
    • 68 Palestinians families have had three or more family members killed by the Israeli military in the same incident since July 7, totalling 360 people. 
    • 245,000 internally displaced people (IDP) are sheltering in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and registered in government schools. As many as 200,000 others are taking refuge with host families, meaning the total number of IDPs could exceed 400,000 people. 
    • 299,000 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.
    • 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.
    • Since July 7, 136 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.”

Attacks on civilians

Attacks on medical facilities & healthcare workers

Attacks on journalists

Attacks on civilian infrastructure

  • On July 29, 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 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.
  • As a result of Israeli attacks on Gaza’s power plant and other electrical infrastructure, the UN reports that those Palestinians in Gaza who still have power are receiving only 2 hours of electricity a day. According to the UN, the lack of electricity “is having an immediate effect on the public health situation, reducing water and sanitation services which depend on main electric lines, and creating greater dependence of hospitals on generator power.”
  • 1.8 million Palestinians are affected by a halt or reduction of the water supply.

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.
  • 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.”


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

  • 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.”