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From the field

Almost half the fatalities in the Gaza Strip in July were civilians not taking part in the hostilities

In July, the Israeli military killed 163 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, 78 of whom (48 percent) were not taking part in the hostilities when they were killed. Thirty-six of the fatalities were minors, and 20 were women. In the West Bank , 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in July. The number of Palestinian fatalities in July was the highest in any month since April 2002.

Of the incidents B'Tselem investigated in Gaza over the past month, the organization has identified four cases in which Israel may have committed grave breaches of the laws of war. A total of 15 Palestinian civilians were killed in these incidents, including 7 minors, the details of which are as follows:

  • The killing of six youths by missile fire in the Dir el-Balah area on 12 July;
  • The killing of Sabah Harareh, her two sons, and their uncle in the Shaja'iyah neighborhood of Gaza from a tank shell on 21 July;
  • The killing of Khariya al-'Atar and her grandson Nadi by a missile that hit the wagon on which they were riding in Beit Lahiya on 24 July;
  • The killing of three persons, one of them a child, by a tank shell in 'Izbat Beit Hanun on 24 July.

The IDF did not issue a statement regarding any of these cases, nor acknowledge that these civilians had been killed. It is unclear why, in these four cases, the Israeli military fired at unarmed civilians and at residential apartments. According to B'Tselem's investigation, there were no armed Palestinians or weapons stored in any of these locations.

Even if the armed forces did not intend to strike civilians, as senior IDF and government officials state repeatedly, B'Tselem's investigations raise a grave concern that these attacks were launched without taking due caution and without verifying that the targets were not civilian structures, as required by the laws of war.

Furthermore, according to the principle of proportionality, it is forbidden to carry out an attack, even against a military object, with the knowledge that it is liable to cause injury to civilians that is excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated from the attack. Thus, even if the killing of the 15 civilians in these four incidents resulted from their proximity to armed Palestinians or to weapons, the magnitude of the "collateral" harm to civilians raises the grave concern that the attacks were disproportionate.

B'Tselem has requested the Judge Advocate General to order a Military Police investigation into the circumstances of these cases, and if the suspicions are validated, to prosecute the persons responsible.