In an urgent letter to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, 12 human rights organizations demand today that Israel fulfil its obligations and ensure that the humanitarian needs of the civilian population of Gaza are met, particularly with respect to the dwindling supply of water and electricity. More than half of Gaza’s population, 1.2 million people, currently were affected by lack of adequate access to water and sanitation services. Hundreds of thousands are completely without power, while additional hundreds of thousands are rationed up to 5 hours of electricity per day. These acute shortages are the result of severe damage to civilian infrastructure caused during the hostilities.
"It was the third time a Qassam rocket directly hit our family. The first was about five years ago, when a rocket hit my brother's house. Three years ago, a rocket hit my parents' house. I'm lucky that the damage to my house was relatively minor... my beeper started sounding the alarm and I went into the safe room ... I heard the rockets land very loudly, and it was so strong that the safe room shook... I was shaking and couldn't move. When I went out, I saw that the blast had blown the door in. I was shaking and couldn't move. When I went out, I saw that the blast had blown the door in. Bits of glass and shrapnel and plaster were scattered everywhere."
Millions of Israeli citizens, many of whom are children, have been living under the threat of rocket fire for more than two weeks. 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. The photographs presented here were taken by Dudu Greenspan from Be'er Sheva, by Activestills, and by Reuters photographers.
"The children were very scared and wanted us to move to schools, where they thought we would be safer. My son Muhammad, who is 18, cried and told me, “You want us to die, like you did with Matar.” Our son Matar was 17 when he was killed in the 2009 war [Operation Cast Lead]. He was killed together with his cousin Muhammad, who was 12, while they were trying to escape the bombardments… After I lost him, I was in a very bad state and couldn't function for some time... My husband, my parents and I thought about it until the morning and decided to leave."
"The fire from the first missile reached inside our homes, the explosion was so strong. It terrified us. Everyone panicked, especially the women, children and elderly people. Not all the families in the area left at once. We did it in stages. I saw my little grandchildren and the children of neighbors and relatives paralyzed with fear, and I could see in their eyes that they were shocked. They were trembling with fear. We had to evacuate our home and leave all our belongings behind. We only took a change of clothes, documents, money and jewelry. We left everything else behind: furniture, dishes, equipment. That really hurt. We left in a hurry after the last warning this morning, because we were very afraid of being bombed."
According to B'Tselem's initial figures, at least 505 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip and Israel in the time between early Tuesday, 8 July 2014, when Operation Protective Edge airstrikes on Gaza began until the 21 July at 9PM. The fatalities include: 140 minors (one minor participated in the hostilities), 56 women (under age 60), 28 senior citizens (aged 60 and over), Initial findings indicate that 102 of the people killed participated in the hostilities.
Two Israeli civilians were killed within Israel during this time, and 27 soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip and Israel.
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
"I keep thinking about my children and what might happen to them. I keep checking the different spaces around the house, looking for a safe room, but there isn’t one. All the rooms have large windows that look out over the street except the kitchen, which is in the center of the apartment. So we decided to sleep in the kitchen. My son Diaa insisted on sleeping in his bed, but when he heard the bombings he came running into the kitchen with his mattress and blanket to sleep with us. There was no room in the kitchen for another mattress so he slept between the other two kids. They slept right up against each other – that is, when we finally managed to sleep, because the bombings just don’t stop, day and night."
The organizations demanded that the Attorney General instruct the government to refrain from violating the laws of war and re-evaluate its aggressive policy and rules of engagement. The organizations seek to clarify whether the Attorney General critically evaluated the legal advice supplied to the Military Advocate General that underpins 'Operation Protective Edge', and calls on him to establish an external, independent and effective investigatory mechanism to examine the decision making of the political and operational establishment as required by international law and supported by the rulings of the High Court of Justice.
"The room was dark and full of smoke. We found my sister, Rawida. She was badly wounded from big pieces of shrapnel, but she was still alive. We got her out from under the rubble. One of the rods that support the roof was stuck in her hip. We pulled it out of her body. We carried her out to the street. Then we found my mother. She was lying in a corner of the room covered in blood and crying in pain. She was having difficulty breathing, but her injuries looked less dangerous. Another of my sisters, Hanan, was badly hurt in her abdomen and chest. She was still breathing. My brother, Marwan, was also hurt. The neighbors helped us carry them outside."
"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."
"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."
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.
"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."