Gaza Strip

Hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel, Nov. 2012

After several months of field research and crosschecking data, human rights organization B’Tselem published a report today (Thursday, 9 May 2013) reviewing harm to civilians in Operation Pillar of Defense. The report provides statistics on the numbers of Palestinians and Israelis killed over the course of the operation, which lasted from 14 to 21 November 2012. The report challenges the common perception in the Israeli public and media that the operation was “surgical” and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians. Furthermore, the report finds that there was a significant difference between the first and the final days of the operation: of the uninvolved Palestinian fatalities, 80% were killed in the last four days of the operation.

I returned from a night shift at the factory. I changed and was getting ready for bed when I heard the alert. I took my daughter in my arms; she was barefoot and hadn't dressed yet. We all ran to the stairwell and went down one floor. We heard a huge explosion... I was afraid that the entire apartment had been destroyed. Mainly I thought about the children, and about what I would do with them if we had nowhere to live.

"I was in shock when I discovered that a missile [sic] had fallen right next to the wall surrounding the compound and destroyed it. I saw my grandson Iyad lying dead on the ground. He had been hit by shrapnel from the shell. My other grandson, Suhaib, was lying next to him but he was moving. Also my granddaughter Sarah was lying on the ground. I called an ambulance immediately. I picked up Iyad. We stood there crying for help."

"We live with this routine, and no one thinks it will happen to them. But now, it actually happened to me. It has happened to many people in my community. Mine is not the first house that's been hit. When it happens to someone else, I feel their pain. But it’s different, it’s impossible to really understand it. Suddenly there I am, saying, my goodness – it's happened to me. It unbalances you, makes you irrational. Why? What happened? What is this? What have they done to me?"

On the morning of November 18, 2012, the Israeli Air Force struck two buildings in Gaza City in which both local and foreign news agencies maintain their offices. Seven employees of Al-Quds TV were injured, two of them seriously. The IDF Spokesman said in a statement that the attacks were directed against the communications infrastructure of Hamas, which it claims Hamas uses to communicate operational orders and disseminate propaganda. B’Tselem is not in a position to determine whether there is any basis for this claim. However, international humanitarian law holds that the media, including those outlets belonging directly to parties to the conflict, are not legitimate military targets.

According to testimonies gathered by B’Tselem, on Thursday, 15 Nov. 2012, an Israeli military air strike took place in an urban area in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip. B’Tselem does not know the objective of the strike. A large crater was created at the point of impact and nearby houses were extensively damaged. Two boys, a 9-year-old and a 16-year-old, who lived in two of the buildings that were damaged, were killed. They sustained fatal injuries from shrapnel as they lay asleep in their homes. The fathers of the two dead boys described the incident to B’Tselem by telephone.

Initial B’Tselem investigations indicate that 102 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip between the launch of the Israeli military’s “Pillar of Defense” operation on the afternoon of November 14, 2012 and the night of November 19. The investigations indicate that at least 40 of those killed were civilians, among them 19 minors, and 10 women. Three Israelis were killed in the course of the operation up to the night of the 19th, as a result of rocket fire from Gaza by Palestinian militant organizations.

A B’Tselem inquiry shows that on the morning of 17 November 2012, an Israeli attack targeted three armed men in Rafah. Two of them were killed on the spot and a third was wounded. Shortly afterwards, while 'Awad a-Nahal, age 31, a resident of a nearby house, was trying to evacuate the injured man, a second attack killed both the armed man and the civilian trying to evacuate him.

21 Nov 2012
Jessica Montell

In a short piece published in the New York Times, B'Tselem's Executive Director puts the current fighting in the broader context of Israel's closure of the Gaza Strip. A ceasefire must protect both Israelis and Palestinians from rocket-fire, she writes. It must also ensure that Gazans can live a life with dignity.

On Sunday 18 November 2012, Judi Ronen, a 58-year-old resident of Sde Nitzan was on her way home from Soroka Hospital in Beersheba where she works as a midwife. On the road just outside the city of Ofakim, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near the car in which she was a passenger. The Magen David website reports that four people were injured in the rocket attack: one seriously, one moderately and two suffered mild injuries. Ronen relayed the description of events to B'Tselem.