Gaza Strip

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

Two years after Israel’s 2014 operation in Gaza, and following a meticulous investigation, B’Tselem is publishing the casualty figures. These indicate that almost two thirds (63%) Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the operation, 1,394 out of 2,202, did not take part in the hostilities and 526 of them were children under 18. The Israeli government almost totally shirked its responsibility for the massive harm to civilians in the operation, casting all blame upon Hamas. However, the fact that one side violated the law of war does not permit its opponent to do the same. Additionally, the lethal results of the open-fire policy chosen were clear even on its first few days. Israeli decision-makers chose to ignore this fact and continue the same policy line, and the moral and legal responsibility for this massive harm to civilians lies with them.

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.

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.