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From the field

Black Flag: The policy of attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip

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B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Dear Friends,

It’s been five months since the end of Israel’s most recent military campaign in the Gaza Strip, dubbed Operation Protective Edge. Day after day, throughout the operation, B’Tselem received reports of entire families being bombed in their own homes. One report succeeded another, and yet another.

When the fighting ceased, we focused on careful probes of those horrendous incidents. Our field researchers in the Gaza Strip met with survivors and sent our data department in Jerusalem the material they had gathered: witness accounts, photographs, death certificates and other documents. We meticulously examined each item, cross-checking and corroborating all data. B’Tselem’s work on these cases was harder than ever. For one thing, gathering official documents from people who just lost their homes posed practical considerable hurdles. Those, however, pale in comparison to the dissonance resulting from the juxtaposition of the horror as disclosed in the material with the need to carefully and dispassionately examine every point of detail, including pressing for answers from people who are doing everything in their power to survive after having lost their nearest and dearest, their homes, and all their belongings.

Seventy of the cases we documented served as the basis for our new report. We chose to include only cases in which three or more people were killed in an attack on a home, a total of over 600 fatalities, at least 70% of whom apparently did not take part in the fighting. These attacks were not carried out on the whim of individual soldiers, pilots or commanders in the field. They are the result of a policy formulated by top government officials and the senior military command, who permitted the attacks to continue even after the horrifying consequences became clear. The report reviews the moral and legal implications of this policy.

Noa Tal,
Data Department Director

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