Images of people hard put to find adequate shelter in the recent heavy rainstorms serve as a reminder that Operation Protective Edge, which ended three months ago, continues to have serious consequences for life in Gaza. The following account by Shadi Barakeh is the second in a series of voices from Gaza that we will be presenting in the coming weeks. Shadi, 12, lost his father and his home in Operation Protective Edge. He now lives in an improvised tent with no facilities: “We have no happiness now… My mother cries for hours on end… It’s cold at night and I’m afraid when I hear dogs bark and the wind whistle.”
Use of firearms
At around 2:00 A.M. on 12 Nov. 2014, Ahmad Hasunah and his sister stepped outside to throw out garbage after a family gathering at their home in Bitunya, Area A. B’Tselem found that soldiers lying in ambush fired live bullets at Hasunah as he walked back home, badly injuring him. The soldiers then questioned him for 20 minutes before giving him first aid. They also confiscated security camera footage in an apparent cover-up attempt. Shortly after the shooting the soldiers arrested a neighbor, and only then permitted a Palestinian ambulance to take Hasunah to hospital.
Yesterday (1 Dec. 2014) HCJ held first hearing in petition by Ahmad ‘Awad whose son Samir, 16, was shot and killed by soldiers in Budrus nearly two years ago. The petition, filed with B’Tselem, calls for a decision by the MAG on whether to indict. The Court added the Attorney General as respondent because Military Justice Law no longer applies to the since-discharged soldiers suspected in the incident. Justice Melcer: “In future, MAG Corps officials must know that […] they must complete all proceedings before the soldiers are discharged.”
Operation Protective Edge ended in late August 2014, but most residents of the Gaza Strip are still suffering its consequences. The video shows the apartment of the Sukar family in a-Shuja’iyeh neighborhood in Gaza City, which was heavily shelled in the operation. The parents and their seven children now live in an apartment that does not provide them shelter from the cold and rain: “This apartment had been hit by shells and parts of it were destroyed. Whenever it rains, the house is flooded. The children get sick with colds. I hope we’ll be able to go back to our apartment, with all our belongings and furniture, especially the washing machine… This war set us forty years back…"
The arrest of a Border Police officer suspected of killing Palestinian youths at Bitunya confirms B’Tselem’s finding that Nadim Nawarah and Muhammad Salameh were killed by live fire and not rubber-coated bullets. Officials and pundits initially attempted to divert attention from the grave outcome by smearing the credibility of security camera footage. The authorities would do well to focus on uncovering the truth, instead of creating media spins to shirk responsibility. The investigation must be speedily completed and those responsible tried.
In March 2014 soldiers shot and killed Yusef a-Shawamreh, 14, as he crossed the Separation Barrier to pick edible plants. Our investigation indicates that he was shot in broad daylight, with no advance warning, although he posed no danger. In July, the military declared the investigation closed, suspecting no criminal action or breach of regulation. The appalling, fatal outcome cannot be tolerated. The responsibility lies with the military’s bodies who issue commands to the troops and the judicial arm which closed the case.
On 10 Aug. 2014, two army vehicles accompanied a water authority vehicle into al-Fawwar R.C. Several children threw stones at them from an alley. Driving out of the camp, one army vehicle stopped at an alley and fired a single live shot, killing 10-year-old Khalil ‘Anati, although neither the soldiers nor the civilian workers faced mortal danger. A Military Police investigation was opened, for which B’Tselem sent the military all information at its disposal. The investigation must be speedily concluded and those responsible brought to justice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
"I drove the second ambulance, and there were two medics with me. The street is only about 200-300 meters from the call center, so we were there within minutes. When we reached the entrance to the street, we were surprised to see three tanks and a military bulldozer in the street, about 100 meters away. Suddenly, with no warning, they opened heavy machine-gun fire at us. The bullets penetrated the ambulance. I tried to turn the ambulance around to get out of there, but the steering wheel must have been hit. Suddenly, I felt sharp pain in my leg and realized I'd been hit by a bullet or shrapnel. Then the windshield shattered. Because I couldn't turn the ambulance around, I decided to try reversing. They kept firing as I backed up, until we got far enough away."
We only took several steps when, suddenly, a missile was fired at us. It landed very close to me. It hit the photojournalist directly, killing killed him. A 25-year-old paramedic was hit in the back by shrapnel. [...] I started treating a little boy, about four years old, who had been hit in the leg by shrapnel. Then I treated another paramedic [...] When we got to the vehicles, we saw they'd been damaged by the bombing, too. [...] We were left with one ambulance and one civil defense vehicle. We got in with the injured child and Fares, the injured paramedic. We headed to the hospital in those two cars [...] Along the short distance I crossed, about 300 meters, I saw a woman and six or seven children lying dead. A few meters from there, I saw two dead men. Across the road, I saw a man, woman and two small children lying dead. They may have been from a single family.
On 6 August 2014, Attorneys Hagai Kalai and Gilad Barnea submitted B'Tselem's response to the attorney general’s position as presented to Israel’s HCJ earlier this week as part of the state’s response to the organization’s petition. B’Tselem’s response emphasizes that the existing rule clearly establishes that it is permissible “to broadcast a political advertisement provided that it concentrate solely on a factual message.” B’Tselem’s proposed radio spot meets these conditions. The Attorney General’s recommendation to change rules as B’Tselem’s radio spot awaits approval raises concern of improper discrimination.
"We heard an explosion nearby. [...] Then suddenly, my brother Ahmad and his wife Suha came in. They were in a panic. Ahmad said that their roof had been hit. I saw that Suha was very frightened. She was trembling. Ahmad asked us to get out of the house immediately. [...] Before we managed to get out, my mother said she wanted to use the toilet. [...] All of a sudden, I felt something pulling me into the house and everything collapsing on top of me. There was black smoke mixed with white dust. I felt I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I was buried in rubble."
"On Friday, 18 July 2014, about two hours after we left our home in Beit Hanoun, I heard a loud explosion. A house nearby, about 30 or 40 meters from where we were staying, was hit. [...] I went outside and ran over to the house that had been bombed. A lot of neighbors came as well. We started carrying the wounded to ambulances, which arrived quickly. After we were done carrying everyone out, we found out the results of the shelling: eight family members were killed and four were injured. I found that I knew some the people who had been killed. I knew 'Abd a-Rahman Abu Jarad, his wife, Rajaa, and their two children, a 6-month-old baby and a 6-year-old boy."
According to B'Tselem's initial figures, at least 1,510 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 2 Aug. 2014.* The fatalities include: 366 minors (one minor participated in the hostilities), 174 women (under age 60), 75 senior citizens (aged 60 and over).
Since the operation began and until the evening of 3 Aug. 2014 two Israeli civilians, one foreign national and 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Most lethal strike on a single residential building in Gaza in many years, and probably ever: According to information received by B'Tselem, on the morning of 29 July 2014, the Israeli Air Force bombed a four-story apartment building in Khan Yunis. The building collapsed, burying its occupants. Thirty-five people were killed and 27 injured. B'Tselem will continue to investigate the inciden, Yet even at this early juncture, it can be stated that the bombing of the building was unlawful. There can be no justification for the deaths of so many civilians, including 18 minors and eight women. Israel repeatedly claims that it has no intention of harming civilians. However, after more than three weeks of lethal bombardments by Israel in the Gaza Strip which have killed hundreds of civilians and wiped out dozens of families, this claim has become meaningless.