Gaza Strip

Hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel - "Protective Edge", July-August 2014

The ruins of the al-Haj family home where 8 family members were killed. Photo by Muhammad Sa’id, B’Tselem, 10 July 2014.

Today (Wednesday, 28 January 2015) B’Tselem published its report on the policy of attacking residential buildings in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. The report addresses one of the appalling hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza this summer: bombings in which hundreds of people were killed – constituting more than a quarter of all of the Palestinians killed in the fighting. Time and again Palestinian families suffered much grievous loss of life. In a single instant, so many families were ruined, with the wreckage of their lives mirroring the devastation of their homes. Hamas made explicit its intention to harm civilians. In contrast, the Israeli government claimed that it acted to prevent harm to civilians in Gaza. Is that the case?

In response to the MAG corps announcement detailing some of the investigations opened into "exceptional" cases during operation Protective Edge, B'Tselem stated that based on past experience, it isn't holding out hope that this process will lead to results other than a whitewash. B'Tselem announced this week that it will not assist the current military investigation mechanism, which currently amounts is nothing more than a masquerade and called for the establishment of an effective, transparent and impartial mechanism.

Search for victims amongst the rubble of a house bombed in Khan Younis. Photo: Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, Reuters, 21 July 2014

During Operation Protective Edge, Israel violated international humanitarian law in some cases, and many other cases are highly suspect. However, B’Tselem does not intend to demand that these suspicions be investigated by Israel’s current investigation mechanisms. This is due to the experience that B’Tselem gained following past military offensives in the Gaza Strip, which shows that there is currently no official body in Israel capable of conducting independent investigations of suspected violations of international humanitarian law.

Ruins in Beit Hanoun, Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 5 August 2014

B’Tselem and Yesh Din, the two leading Israeli human rights organizations in monitoring the investigations of offenses committed by security forces against Palestinians, find that the military law enforcement system is a complete failure. After examining the results of hundreds of investigations, the organizations assert that the existing investigation mechanism precludes serious investigations and is marred by severe structural flaws that render it incapable of conducting professional investigations.

Archive Photo: Reuters.

According to media reports, armed Hamas operatives killed over twenty Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for allegedly collaborating with Israel. Images of the executions were published in the media. According to media reports, since Thursday 21 August 2014, some 25 Palestinians were executed, including seven persons in a central square in Gaza City.

B'Tselem's board and staff send their sincere condolences to our colleague Issam Younis, director of al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, for the death of his father and his father's wife in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah, in the morning of 21 August 2014.

During the fighting in Gaza, dozens of residences were bombed while residents were at home. The following infographic lists members of families killed in their homes in 72 incidents of bombing or shelling. In these incidents, 547 people were killed, including 125 women under the age of 60, 250 minors, and 29 people over the age of 60. Mouse over the houses for more details. The figures B’Tselem collected regarding the number of Palestinians killed in the course of the fighting in the Gaza Strip are very preliminary, and are still being cross-referenced and checked.

A house bombed in Gaza. Photo: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters, 26 July 2014

Airstrikes on homes were central to Israel's military policy from the start of its latest operation in Gaza. Holding Hamas responsible for the heavy toll this policy took on civilians in Gaza is a faulty premise, both legally and morally. Hamas does indeed fire at Israeli civilians, operate from within the civilian population and conceal weapons at civilian sites. Hamas must be held accountable these violations of the law. Yet this responsibility does not absolve the Israeli government and senior military officers of responsibility for the consequences of Israel's own policy and actions.

Member of emergency services crew in Gaza; background: house bombed on 10 July 2014. Photo: Ahmad Zakut, Reuters

According to B'Tselem's initial figures, at least 1,767 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip and Israel from the time fighting began through 10 Aug. 2014. The fatalities include: 431 minors (one minor participated in the hostilities), 200 women (under age 60), 85 persons aged 60 and over. During the same period two Israeli civilians, one foreign national and 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Israel and the Gaza Strip. The figures B’Tselem collected regarding the number of Palestinians killed in the course of the fighting in the Gaza Strip are very preliminary and incomplete. In the months ahead, B’Tselem plans to further investigate the incidents.

Photos: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem

Photos of the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Taken by Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem field researcher in Gaza, on 5 August 2014, in the course of the ceasefire. Whole sections of Beit Hanoun have been demolished, making it one of the hardest hit communities in the recent offensive, along with Gaza City, Beit Lahiya, Khuza’ah and Rafah. In the course of the fighting B’Tselem collected several testimonies from Beit Hanoun residents. Click here to view photos and read testimonies.