Horrific developments in Gaza have reached intolerable heights: Israel is bombing houses with people in them, entire families have been buried under rubble, and streets lie in ruins. Hundreds have been killed so far, dozens in the last 24 hours only, many of them women and children. Hamas makes no pretense to follow the laws of war. Israel does, but holds Hamas responsible for its own. Unlawful actions by one party cannot justify unlawful actions by the other. The horrifying reality on the ground makes it impossible to further countenance Israel’s cynical use of legal terms such as “proportionality”, “distinction” and “due caution”.
"Just as I was about to leave, I heard two loud explosions very close by. I went outside. Everything was full of dust. When the air began to clear, I saw my wife running down the street. I ran over to her and saw her pick up a little boy and scream. When I got there, I saw she was holding Saher. He was dead."
On 20 July Israeli forces bombed the four-story building that was home to the extended Jame' family: the matriarch, Fatmeh Abu Jame', her four sons, and their wives and children. B’Tselem’s initial findings indicate that the likely target of the attack was Ahmad Suliman Sahmoud, a member of Hamas’ military wing, who was visiting a member of the family. Everyone who was in the house at the time was hurt: 25 members of the Abu Jame' family were killed, as well as Hamas operative Sahmoud. The rest were injured. Information B’Tselem has at this stage indicates that no warning was issued and no warning missile was fired prior to the attack
"There’s no bomb alert in our village, but we can hear the alerts from Omer. Even though the village was recognized by the state a few years ago, there is nothing here to protect us. There are no security rooms and no bomb shelter. More than 2,000 people live here. Our roofs are made of tin sheets, so when we hear the alert, we go outside and lie flat on the ground. It’s safer outside than inside. If a rocket hits the house, it’ll collapse completely and that’s very dangerous."
"When I go to work, I drive a friend of mine, because she's too scared to drive. I'm a bit braver but we're always on our toes: should we leave now or later. We decide to take our chances and leave and I drive as fast as I can, always thinking about where I can stop if it catches me on the way. We're really scared to go outside. The city is a ghost town and we only shop for essentials. The rest of the time, I'm at home."
In light of last night's events: A procedure to evacuate those injured in the Gaza Strip is required immediately. as part of the lessons learned the "Cast Lead" operation, and in accordance with its legal obligations, the military pledged to prepare a coordination mechanism that would allow the evacuation of the wounded and give access to ambulances within a reasonable time. The incidents of last night clearly illustrate that this mechanism, even if it exists on paper, is not sufficiently effective. Accordingly, we urge immediate action to honor this legal obligation to institute a mechanism to regulate the evacuation of the wounded in the Gaza Strip. We call for protection to be provided to rescue teams and medical personnel in the Gaza Strip, to allow them to perform their duties without exposing them to danger.
"We heard the Muazzin call out and prepared for prayer. It was about 4:30 A.M. Suddenly, there was a loud explosion. Everything shook and the walls collapsed. The hostel filled with dust and smoke. It took me a few minutes to come around and understand what had happened. The dust and smoke dispersed a bit, and I could see. The hostel was completely destroyed. There were broken things everywhere. I checked myself and discovered I was wounded in my head, abdomen and legs . I saw my friends 'Ula and Suha lying on the floor next to me. They weren't moving. They looked terrible. I knew right away that they’d been killed. The missile hit the roof and entered the hostel from the top floor."
"Death has become an inseparable part of our lives, every minute, day and night. You never know when death will take you by surprise. You don't know when the next war will break out and how it will end. You don’t know how many people will pay with their lives and how many homes will be destroyed... I pretend to be strong and not afraid so my children don’t get scared, especially when they hear the missiles and the bombings. I tell them it’s happening far away and that nothing will reach us. They keep asking why people’s houses are being bombed, what those people did, and whether it hurts them. "
According to B'Tselem's initial figures, 203 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the time between early Tuesday, 8 July 2014, when Operation Protective Edge airstrikes on Gaza began until the 17 July at 7PM. The fatalities include: 41 minors, 21 women (under age 60), 14 senior citizens, Initial findings indicate that 48 of the people killed were involved in combat.
One Israeli civilian, Dror Khanin, was killed within Israel by mortar bomb fired by Palestinians from Gaza.
The military’s demand to evacuate the hospital is unlawful. A hospital is not a military target and the military may not target it even after it is evacuated. The information B’Tselem has indicates that the hospital was ordered to evacuate as part of the sweeping demand to evacuate the entire neighborhood, in blatant disregard for the fact that evacuating a rehabilitation institution is a complicated task which may put lives at risk. There is no other rehabilitative institute in the area where patients can be transferred. These patients require special conditions that cannot be recreated. Transferring hospital patients is complicated and dangerous at the best of times. Under the current conditions in Gaza, the danger is mortal.
Muhammad got there before me. He told me afterwards that he went into his apartment and found my son 'Abd a-Rahman in his bedroom. He was lying on the bedroom floor. His legs were chopped off at the knees and he had shrapnel wounds all over his body and face. When I got to Muhammad's apartment, I saw him standing in the doorway. He was holding a severely wounded child. I took the child from him without knowing it was my son. I starting carrying the child downstairs, and only then I looked at his face and realized it was 'Abd a-Rahman, my five-year-old. He was dead. I was stunned. I shouted: "My son is dead!" One of my brothers called an ambulance, which came a few minutes later. We took 'Abd a-Rahman to Shuhadaa al-Aqsa Hospital.
I'm really worried about my husband. I talked to him a short while ago, and he told me things are worse. I asked him to leave the house, but he said it's very dangerous and that if he goes outside, he won't make it alive. I don't know what will happen to him. Our home was already bombed once, in the 2009 war. We left the house then too and sheltered in a school. When we got back, we found a pile of rubble. There was nothing left that was usable. We just finished rebuilding one story of our house a year ago. When we moved in, I couldn't believe I had a house with walls, windows, doors, a kitchen, a toilet and a shower. But the happiness didn't last long, because now we've been evacuated again. We had to escape and go back to sitting on school chairs. To me, these chairs symbolize being uprooted again. These chairs mean pain and suffering.
"during the operation, I stay at home with my four kids, day and night. When the siren goes off, we leave our apartment and gather in the staircase. We hear and see rockets being diverted [by Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system] or hitting targets very close to us. Every explosion makes the whole building shake. The children are afraid to sleep in their rooms and insist on staying in the living room with me all night. Even if they do manage to fall asleep, they take turns staying awake "on guard".
"At around 10:30 P.M., I heard two loud explosions. They were really close to my house and the whole area shook. There was no warning fire beforehand like there was in other cases. Glass in my house shattered and the whole area was covered in thick smoke... I made sure everyone in my family was okay and went outside...We continued looking for survivors and carrying bodies out all night... I can't express it in words. No one in the neighborhood ever imagined that family homes would be attacked for no reason, with no prior warning."
"We watched the first half of the match together. We drank tea and coffee and there was a relaxed mood. We didn't hear any airplanes nearby. Suddenly, there was a loud explosion. By the time I realized what was happening, I found myself buried under a pile of sand and dirt. I choked on the sand and could hardly breathe. I manage to get my head out of the sand. The rest of my body was stuck and I started calling for help. It was dark, but I could see that most of the caf? had been destroyed. It had simply disappeared, replaced by a huge hole in the ground. The people who had been inside were buried under the sand."
According to B'Tselem's initial figures, 172 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the time between early Tuesday, 8 July 2014, when Operation Protective Edge airstrikes on Gaza began until the evening of 14 July. The fatalities include: 34 minors, 20 women (under age 60), 10 senior citizens. Initial findings indicate that 43 of the people killed were involved in combat.
According to B’Tselem’s initial inquiries, by yesterday evening (14 July 2014) at least 172 Palestinians had been killed in Israel’s airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. This number includes 34 minors (eight younger than 6 years old), 20 women (under 60) and 10 senior citizens. Our field researchers in Gaza have been working ceaselessly, night and day, to document events. Our field researchers in the West Bank have been lending a hand by collecting testimonies over the phone. Our office staff has been processing and verifying information, and trying to convey the incomprehensible scope of the infringement on human rights. The following seven photos were taken by our field workers in Gaza.
"On 3 July 2014, at about 8:30 in the morning, a rocket hit my neighbor’s house. The house was being used as a small child day care center, as part of a rotation system... we heard the blast and my wife and I ran outside. We went into the house next door, into the security room, where the children were, to get them out. My wife and I both took one child in each hand and got out. The fifth child was with the care giver. The rocket hit the wall of the house and lodged there, but luckily, it didn’t explode, so the damage was relatively minor. I’ve learned from past experience not to let the kids see the damage the rockets cause, because it can be traumatic, so I waited inside the house with the kids until the bomb squad removed the rocket lodged in the wall, before we went out."
We reached the house that had been bombed. "I know it well. There was hardly anything left. It was totally destroyed. Bits of bodies were scattered on the road. The house next door to them belonged to the Shakshak family. It was also destroyed, but wasn't directly hit. The family was covered with debris, but they managed to get out alive. We started looking for survivors in the al-Haj family home. It was a terrible sight. I didn't think we could rescue anyone from under the debris. All we got out was body parts."
Millions of Israeli citizens, many of whom are children, have been living under the threat of rocket fire for almost a week. For hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in the south of the country, this terrible situation is part of an ongoing routine. The unrelenting attacks have disrupted their lives, denied their right to live in security and hurt their ability to make a living. Every venture outside – to work, school, or a recreational activity – is attended by a sense of danger. Some residents have even decided to relocate for fear they or their loved ones would get hurt.