” (Beirut, October 12, 2023) – Israel’s use of white phosphorus in military operations in Gaza and Lebanon puts civilians at risk of serious and long-term injuries, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing a question and answer document on white phosphorus. Human Rights Watch verified videos taken in Lebanon and Gaza on October 10 and 11, 2023, respectively, showing multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border, and interviewed two people who described an attack in Gaza.”
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
ISRAEL: WHITE PHOSPHOROUS USED IN
12 OCTOBER 2023
Use in Populated Areas Poses Grave Risks to Civilians
(Beirut, October 12, 2023) – Israel’s use of white phosphorus in military operations in Gaza and Lebanon puts civilians at risk of serious and long-term injuries, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing a question and answer document on white phosphorus. Human Rights Watch verified videos taken in Lebanon and Gaza on October 10 and 11, 2023, respectively, showing multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border, and interviewed two people who described an attack in Gaza.
White phosphorus, which can be used either for marking, signaling, and obscuring, or as a weapon to set fires that burn people and objects, has a significant incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The use of white phosphorus in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, magnifies the risk to civilians and violates the international humanitarian law prohibition on putting civilians at unnecessary risk.
“Any time that white phosphorus is used in crowded civilian areas, it poses a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering,” said Lama Fakih, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “White phosphorous is unlawfully indiscriminate when airburst in populated urban areas, where it can burn down houses and cause egregious harm to civilians.”
On October 11, Human Rights Watch interviewed by phone two people from the al-Mina area in Gaza City, who described observing strikes consistent with the use of white phosphorus. One was in the street at the time, while the other was in a nearby office building. Both described ongoing airstrikes before seeing explosions in the sky followed by what they described as white lines going earthward. They estimated that the attack took place sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Both said that the smell was stifling. The person who was in his office said that the smell was so strong that he went toward the window to see what was happening and then filmed the strike.
Human Rights Watch reviewed the video and verified that it was taken in Gaza City’s port and identified that the munitions used in the strike were airburst 155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles. Other videos posted to social media and verified by Human Rights Watch show the same location. Dense white smoke and a garlic smell are characteristics of white phosphorus.
Human Rights Watch also reviewed two videos from October 10 from two locations near the Israel-Lebanon border. Each shows 155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles being used, apparently as smokescreens, marking, or signaling.
White phosphorus ignites when exposed to atmospheric oxygen and continues to burn until it is deprived of oxygen or exhausted. Its chemical reaction can create intense heat (about 815°C/1,500°F), light, and smoke.
Upon contact, white phosphorus can burn people, thermally and chemically, down to the bone as it is highly soluble in fat and therefore in human flesh. White phosphorus fragments can exacerbate wounds even after treatment and can enter the bloodstream and cause multiple organ failure. Already dressed wounds can reignite when dressings are removed and the wounds are re-exposed to oxygen. Even relatively minor burns are often fatal. For survivors, extensive scarring tightens muscle tissue and creates physical disabilities. The trauma of the attack, the painful treatment that follows, and appearance-changing scars lead to psychological harm and social exclusion.
The use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life, Human Rights Watch said. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in videos of airbursting white phosphorus projectiles. Airbursting of white phosphorus projectiles spreads 116 burning felt wedges impregnated within the substance over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter, depending on the altitude of the burst, thereby exposing more civilians and civilian structures to potential harm than a localized ground burst.
Israeli authorities have not commented on whether or not they used white phosphorus during the ongoing fighting.
Israel’s use of white phosphorus comes amid hostilities following Hamas’ deadly attacks on October 7 and subsequent rocket attacks that have killed, as of October 12, more than 1,300 Israelis, including hundreds of civilians, and taking of scores of Israelis as hostages in violation of international humanitarian law. Heavy Israeli bombardment of Gaza in this period has killed, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, more than 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza, including scores of civilians, and displaced more than 338,000 people. Many communities in southern Israel have also been displaced and more than 1,500 Palestinian militants reportedly died in Israel. Israeli authorities have cut electricity, water, fuel and food into Gaza, in violation of the international humanitarian law prohibition against collective punishment, exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation from over 16 years of Israeli closure.
Human Rights Watch has documented the Israeli military’s use of white phosphorus in previous conflicts in Gaza, including in 2009. Israel should ban all use of “airburst” white phosphorus munitions in populated areas without exception. There are readily available and non-lethal alternatives to white phosphorus smoke shells, including some produced by Israeli companies, which the Israeli army has used in the past as an obscurant for its forces. These alternatives have the same effect and dramatically reduce the harm to civilians.
In 2013, in response to a petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice regarding the use of white phosphorus in Gaza, the Israeli military stated that it would no longer use white phosphorus in populated areas except in two narrow situations that it revealed only to the justices. In the court’s ruling, Justice Edna Arbel said that the conditions would “render use of white phosphorous an extreme exception in highly particular circumstances.” Although this ruling did not represent an official change in policy, Justice Arbel called on the Israeli military to conduct a “thorough and comprehensive examination” and adopt a permanent military directive.
Attacks using air-delivered incendiary weapons in civilian areas are prohibited under Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). While the protocol contains weaker restrictions for ground-launched incendiary weapons, all types of incendiary weapons produce horrific injuries. Protocol III applies only to weapons that are “primarily designed” to set fires or cause burns, and thus some countries believe it excludes certain multipurpose munitions with incendiary effects, notably those containing white phosphorus.
Human Rights Watch and many states have long called for closing these loopholes in Protocol III. These attacks should add impetus to the calls from at least two dozen countries for the CCW Meeting of States Parties to set aside time to discuss the adequacy of Protocol III. The next meeting is scheduled for November at the United Nations in Geneva.
Palestine joined Protocol III on January 5, 2015, and Lebanon on April 5, 2017, while Israel has not ratified it.
“To avoid civilian harm, Israel should stop using white phosphorus in populated areas,” Fakih said. “Parties to the conflict should be doing everything they can to spare civilians from further suffering.”
”Two key principles enable the achievement of this goal. First – the principle of distinction – determines what legitimate targets are: according to Article 52(2) of Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions, only military objects are legitimate targets for attack. They are defined as objects that make an effective contribution to military action and whose destruction would offer a definite military advantage to the attacking side. The second principle – the principle of proportionality – limits how attacks are to be carried out: according to Article 51(5)b of the Protocol, legitimate targets must not be attacked if the expected harm to civilians would be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. Whether or not an attack is proportionate is not determined by the actual harm inflicted but by the information those responsible for it had or should have had.
Israel’s airstrikes since the start of the war are an abject violation of these principles and constitute a war crime. The massive scale of destruction in the Gaza Strip is unprecedented.”
PROTECT CIVILIANS FROM THE IMPACT OF HOSTILITIES
27 OCTOBER 2023
Since the start of the war, Israel has dropped thousands of bombs on the Gaza Strip. Gaza is an enclave enclosed on all sides. There are no safe rooms, no shelters, no safe spaces. Residents have no way to protect themselves. They wait, in terror and fear, hoping to survive. Over a million people have already left their homes in an attempt to find a safe place; some have been killed while fleeing, others where they sought shelter.
Israel, like Hamas and like every country in the world, must follow international humanitarian law. These legal provisions were not enacted by human rights or pro-Palestinian organizations. They were accepted by all nations – including Israel – out of a shared understanding that even during war, there must be rules that minimize the suffering caused to civilians and ensure that they are kept outside the cycle of hostilities to the extent possible.
Two key principles enable the achievement of this goal. First – the principle of distinction – determines what legitimate targets are: according to Article 52(2) of Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions, only military objects are legitimate targets for attack. They are defined as objects that make an effective contribution to military action and whose destruction would offer a definite military advantage to the attacking side. The second principle – the principle of proportionality – limits how attacks are to be carried out: according to Article 51(5)b of the Protocol, legitimate targets must not be attacked if the expected harm to civilians would be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. Whether or not an attack is proportionate is not determined by the actual harm inflicted but by the information those responsible for it had or should have had.
Israel’s airstrikes since the start of the war are an abject violation of these principles and constitute a war crime. The massive scale of destruction in the Gaza Strip is unprecedented. Entire residential neighborhoods have been destroyed, and, according to Gaza authorities, at least 16,000 residential units have been completely destroyed, while an additional 11,000 have been rendered uninhabitable. The horrifying death toll, which rises every day, is unfathomable: according to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 7,000 people have been killed, including almost 3,000 minors, more than 1,700 women, and dozens of families who were killed together when their houses collapsed on them. More than 17,000 people have been injured, about 2,000 are still missing under the rubble.
These figures cannot be reconciled with the provisions of international law described above: neither with the requirement for each of the thousands of targets bombed to have made “an effective contribution” to Hamas’s activities and their destruction to have offered a “definite military advantage” to Israel; nor with the requirement that even if the targets did meet these conditions, the massive loss of life and damage to property was proportionate. Such an interpretation would be not only legally mistaken but also morally unacceptable.
Israel says Hamas is to blame for these figures because it uses civilians as human shields, conceals weapons in their homes, and fires at civilian targets in Israel from within a civilian population, allegedly leaving Israel with no choice but to harm civilians in its war against Hamas. According to this view, assigning full responsibility to Hamas means that every action taken by Israel, however horrific the outcome, would be considered legitimate. Such a claim is baseless. Respect for the law, international humanitarian law included, is not subject to reciprocity: failure by one side to comply does not give the other license to do the same.
Fighting Hamas poses difficult challenges to Israel: How to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilian ones, when Hamas does not distinguish itself from the rest of the population? How to avoid harming civilians who are not taking part in the hostilities when Hamas members continue to fire on Israeli communities from within population centers? B’Tselem does not pretend to advise the government or the military how to conduct the fighting in Gaza, nor is this the role of a human rights organization. But one thing is clear: The choice whether or not to obey the law is Israel’s. The government and the military must stay respect the law and maintain humanity as they search for the answers.
On October 7, Hamas committed horrific war crimes. Hundreds of Hamas militants and other residents of Gaza entered Israeli territory, firing at anyone who passed by. They entered communities and homes, shot and killed entire families and party-goers, set homes on fire, and committed atrocities. More than 1,300 people were killed, thousands more were injured, and many are still missing. More than 200 people – including babies, children, women, and the elderly – were kidnapped to the Gaza Strip and are being held hostage.
There is no way, nor can there be a way, to justify these crimes, and any attempt to do so must be rejected and denounced. But these crimes cannot justify the death and destruction Israel is now inflicting on Gaza’s more than two million residents. Targeting civilians, their property and civilian infrastructure is always prohibited, and Israel must end this immediately.
Israel, like any other country, is obligated to protect its citizens. However, Israel, like any other country, is also obligated to comply with the restrictions set by international humanitarian law.
”Het conflict tussen Israël en Palestina, dat nu al bijna drie weken aan de gang is, laat een immens spoor van vernieling achter. Nieuwe satellietbeelden tonen de enorme verwoesting in de Gazastrook als gevolg van de Israëlische bombardementen. Volledige dorpen en steden zijn van de kaart geveegd.”
VERWOESTING IN GAZA BREIDT ZICH STEEDS VERDER UIT
4 NOVEMBER 2023
”Het conflict tussen Israël en Palestina, dat nu al bijna drie weken aan de gang is, laat een immens spoor van vernieling achter. Nieuwe satellietbeelden tonen de enorme verwoesting in de Gazastrook als gevolg van de Israëlische bombardementen. Volledige dorpen en steden zijn van de kaart geveegd.”
SATELLIETBEELDEN TONEN IMMENSE VERNIELING NA DRIE
WEKEN ISRAELISCHE BOMBARDEMENTEN
27 OCTOBER 2023
Het conflict tussen Israël en Palestina, dat nu al bijna drie weken aan de gang is, laat een immens spoor van vernieling achter. Nieuwe satellietbeelden tonen de enorme verwoesting in de Gazastrook als gevolg van de Israëlische bombardementen. Volledige dorpen en steden zijn van de kaart geveegd.
Israël wil de Palestijnse terreurorganisatie Hamas, die de macht heeft in de Gazastrook, uitschakelen als wraak voor de verrassingsaanval van 7 oktober. Daarbij kwamen zeker 1400 Israëli’s om het leven en werden tweehonderd anderen gegijzeld. Israël voerde al talloze bombardementen uit op Gaza, met de dood van meer dan zevenduizend mensen – onder wie vooral burgers – als gevolg.
Niet alleen de menselijke, maar ook de materiële tol is groot. Dat tonen nieuwe satellietbeelden van de Amerikaanse bedrijven Maxar Technologies en Planet Labs. Op de foto’s is te zien hoe verschillende dorpen en steden in Gaza volledig platgebombardeerd zijn.
In de stad Beit Hanoun, dicht bij de noordelijke grens met Israël, zijn de meeste gebouwen met de grond gelijk gemaakt. Enkele dagen na het begin van het conflict meldden de Israëlische autoriteiten dat ze de stad, zogezegd ‘het centrum van Hamas’, maar liefst 120 keer hadden aangevallen.
De Gazastrook is een van de dichtstbevolkte gebieden ter wereld, met een oppervlakte van 365 vierkante kilometer en ongeveer twee miljoen inwoners. Het Israëlische leger raadt alle Gazanen aan om het gebied te verlaten. Volgens de Verenigde Naties zijn sinds het begin van het conflict al zeker 1,4 miljoen Palestijnen gevlucht.
DAMNING EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES AS ISRAELI ATTACKS
WIPE OUT ENTIRE FAMILIES IN GAZA
20 OCTOBER 2023
As Israeli forces continue to intensify their cataclysmic assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, Amnesty International has documented unlawful Israeli attacks, including indiscriminate attacks, which caused mass civilian casualties and must be investigated as war crimes.
The organization spoke to survivors and eyewitnesses, analysed satellite imagery, and verified photos and videos to investigate air bombardments carried out by Israeli forces between 7 and 12 October, which caused horrific destruction, and in some cases wiped out entire families. Here the organization presents an in-depth analysis of its findings in five of these unlawful attacks. In each of these cases, Israeli attacks violated international humanitarian law, including by failing to take feasible precautions to spare civilians, or by carrying out indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between civilians and military objectives, or by carrying out attacks that may have been directed against civilian objects.
“In their stated intent to use all means to destroy Hamas, Israeli forces have shown a shocking disregard for civilian lives. They have pulverized street after street of residential buildings killing civilians on a mass scale and destroying essential infrastructure, while new restrictions mean Gaza is fast running out of water, medicine, fuel and electricity. Testimonies from eyewitness and survivors highlighted, again and again, how Israeli attacks decimated Palestinian families, causing such destruction that surviving relatives have little but rubble to remember their loved ones by,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
The five cases presented barely scratch the surface of the horror that Amnesty has documented and illustrate the devastating impact that Israel’s aerial bombardments are having on people in Gaza. For 16 years, Israel’s illegal blockade has made Gaza the world’s biggest open-air prison – the international community must act now to prevent it becoming a giant graveyard. We are calling on Israeli forces to immediately end unlawful attacks in Gaza and ensure that they take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects. Israel’s allies must immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo given that serious violations under international law are being committed.”
Since 7 October Israeli forces have launched thousands of air bombardments in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 3,793 people, mostly civilians, including more than 1,500 children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Approximately 12,500 have been injured and more than 1,000 bodies are still trapped beneath the rubble.
In Israel, more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, have been killed and some 3,300 others were injured, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health after armed groups from the Gaza Strip launched an unprecedented attack against Israel on 7 October. They fired indiscriminate rockets and sent fighters into southern Israel who committed war crimes including deliberately killing civilians and hostage-taking. The Israeli military says that fighters also took more than 200 civilian hostages and military captives back to the Gaza Strip.
“Amnesty International is calling on Hamas and other armed groups to urgently release all civilian hostages, and to immediately stop firing indiscriminate rockets. There can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians under any circumstances,” said Agnès Callamard.
Hours after the attacks began, Israeli forces started their massive bombardment of Gaza. Since then, Hamas and other armed groups have also continued to fire indiscriminate rockets into civilian areas in Israel in attacks that must also be investigated as war crimes. Meanwhile in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, at least 79 Palestinians, including 20 children, have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers amid a spike in excessive use of force by the Israeli army and an escalation in state-backed settler violence, which Amnesty International is also investigating.
Amnesty International is continuing to investigate dozens of attacks in Gaza. This output focuses on five unlawful attacks which struck residential buildings, a refugee camp, a family home and a public market. The Israeli army claims it only attacks military targets, but in a number of cases Amnesty International found no evidence of the presence of fighters or other military objectives in the vicinity at the time of the attacks. Amnesty International also found that the Israeli military failed to take all feasible precautions ahead of attacks including by not giving Palestinian civilians effective prior warnings – in some cases they did not warn civilians at all and in others they issued inadequate warnings.
“Our research points to damning evidence of war crimes in Israel’s bombing campaign that must be urgently investigated. Decades of impunity and injustice and the unprecedented level of death and destruction of the current offensive will only result in further violence and instability in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” said Agnès Callamard.
“It is vital that the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court urgently expedites its ongoing investigation into evidence of war crimes and other crimes under international law by all parties. Without justice and the dismantlement of Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians, there can be no end to the horrifying civilian suffering we are witnessing.”
The relentless bombardment of Gaza has brought unimaginable suffering to people who are already facing a dire humanitarian crisis. After 16 years under Israel’s illegal blockade, Gaza’s healthcare system is already close to ruin, and its economy is in tatters. Hospitals are collapsing, unable to cope with the sheer number of wounded people and desperately lacking in life-saving medication and equipment.
Amnesty International is calling on the international community to urge Israel to end its total siege, which has cut Gazans off from food, water, electricity and fuel and urgently allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. They must also press Israel to lift its longstanding blockade on Gaza which amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population, is a war crime and is a key aspect of Israel’s system of apartheid. Finally, the Israeli authorities must rescind their “evacuation order” which may amount to forced displacement of the population.
Gaza’s civilians pay the price
Amnesty International investigated five Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, which took place between 7 and 12 October. Between 2012 and 2022, the Israeli authorities have denied, or failed to respond to, all of Amnesty International’s requests to gain access to Gaza. For this reason, the organization worked with a Gaza-based fieldworker who visited attack sites and collected testimony and other evidence. Amnesty International researchers interviewed 17 survivors and other eyewitnesses, as well as six relatives of victims over the phone, for the five cases included in this report. The organization’s Crisis Evidence Lab analysed satellite imagery and verified photos and videos of attack sites.
In the five cases described below Amnesty International found that Israeli forces carried out attacks that violated international humanitarian law, including by failing to take feasible precautions to spare civilians, or by carrying out indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between civilians and military objectives, or by carrying out attacks that may have been directed against civilian objects.
Under international humanitarian law, all parties to the conflict must, at all times, distinguish between civilians and civilian objects and fighters and military objectives and direct their attacks only at fighters and military objectives. Direct attacks on civilians or civilian objects are prohibited and are war crimes. Indiscriminate attacks – those which fail to distinguish as required – are also prohibited. Where an indiscriminate attack kills or injuries civilians, it amounts to a war crime. Disproportionate attacks, those where the expected harm to civilians and civilian objects is excessive in comparison with the “concrete and direct military advantage anticipated,” also are prohibited. Knowingly launching a disproportionate attack is a war crime.
Whole families wiped out
At around 8:20pm on 7 October, Israeli forces struck a three-storey residential building in the al-Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City, where three generations of the al-Dos family were staying. Fifteen family members were killed in the attack, seven of them children. The victims include Awni and Ibtissam al-Dos, and their grandchildren and namesakes Awni, 12, and Ibtissam, 17; and Adel and Ilham al-Dos and all five of their children. Baby Adam, just 18 months old, was the youngest victim.
Mohammad al-Dos, whose five-year-old son Rakan was killed in the attack, told Amnesty International:
“Two bombs fell suddenly on top of the building and destroyed it. My wife and I were lucky to survive because we were staying on the top floor. She was nine-months pregnant and gave birth at al-Shifa hospital a day after the attack. Our entire family has been destroyed.”
Amnesty International interviewed a neighbour whose home had been damaged in the attack. Like Mohammad al-Dos, he said that he had not received warning from Israeli forces, and nor had anyone in his family.
“It was sudden, boom, nobody told us anything,” he said.
The fact that the building was full of civilians at the time of the air strike further supports the testimony of survivors who said Israeli forces did not issue any warnings. It took relatives, neighbours and rescue teams more than six hours to remove the bodies from beneath the rubble.
Amnesty International’s research has found no evidence of military targets in the area at the time of the attack. If Israeli forces attacked this residential building knowing that there were only civilians present at the time of the attack, this would be a direct attack on a civilian object or on civilians, which are prohibited and constitute war crimes. Israel offered no explanation on the incident. It is incumbent on the attacker to prove the legitimacy of their military conduct. Even if Israeli forces targeted what they considered a military objective, attacking a residential building, at a time when it was full of civilians, in the heart of a densely populated civilian neighbourhood, in a manner that caused this number of civilian casualties and degree of destruction would be indiscriminate. Indiscriminate attacks that kill and injure civilians are war crimes.
On 10 October, an Israeli air strike on a family home killed 12 members of the Hijazi family and four of their neighbours, in Gaza City’s al-Sahaba Street. Three children were among those killed. The Israeli military stated that they struck Hamas targets in the area but gave no further information and did not provide any evidence of the presence of military targets. Amnesty International’s research has found no evidence of military targets in the area at the time of the attack.
Amnesty International spoke to Kamal Hijazi, who lost his sister, his two brothers and their wives, five nieces and nephews, and two cousins in the attack. He said:
“Our family home, a three-storey house, was bombed at 5:15 pm. It was sudden, without any warning; that is why everyone was at home.”
Ahmad Khalid Al-Sik, one of the Hijazi family’s neighbours, was also killed. He was 37 years old and had three young children, who were all injured in the attack. Ahmad’s father described what happened:
“I was at home in our apartment and Ahmad was downstairs when the house opposite [belonging to the Hijazi family] was bombed, and he was killed. He was going to have his hair cut at the barber, which is next to the entrance of our building. When Ahmad left to go get a haircut, I could not imagine that I would not see him again. The bombing was sudden, unexpected. There was no warning; people were busy with their daily tasks.”
The barber who was going to cut Ahmad’s hair was also killed.
According to Amnesty International’s findings there were no military objectives in the house or its immediate vicinity, this indicates that this may be a direct attack on civilians or on a civilian object which is prohibited and a war crime.
In the cases documented by Amnesty International, the organization repeatedly found that the Israeli military had either not warned civilians at all, or issued warnings which were inadequate. In some instances, they informed a single person about a strike which affected whole buildings or streets full of people or issued unclear “evacuation” orders which left residents confused about the timeframe. In no cases did Israeli forces ensure civilians had a safe place to evacuate to. In one attack on Jabalia market attack, people had left their homes in response to an “evacuation” order, only to be killed in the place to which they had fled.
On 8 October, an Israeli air strike struck the Nuseirat refugee camp in the centre of the Gaza Strip, killing Mohammed and Shuruq al-Naqla, and two of their children, Omar, three, and Yousef, five, and injuring their two-year-old daughter Mariam and their three-year-old nephew Abdel Karim. Around 20 other people were also injured in the strike.
Ismail al-Naqla, Mohammed’s brother and the father of Abdel Karim, told Amnesty International that their next-door neighbour received a call from the Israeli military at around 10:30am, warning that his building was about to be bombed. Ismail and Mohammed and their families left the building immediately, as did their neighbours. By 3:30pm, there had been no attack, so the al-Naqlas and others went home to collect necessities. Ismail explained that they had thought it would be safe to do so as five hours had elapsed since the warning, though they planned to leave again very quickly.
But as they were returning to their apartments, a bomb struck the building next door, destroying the al-Naqlas’ home and damaging others nearby. Mohammed and his family were still in the courtyard of their building when they were killed. Ismail described seeing part of his five-year-old nephew Yousef’s brain “outside of his head” and said that three-year-old Omar’s body could not be recovered from under the rubble until the next day. He told Amnesty International that Mariam and Abdel Karim, the two surviving children, were released from hospital quickly as Gaza’s hospitals are overwhelmed with the volume of casualties.
Giving a warning does not free armed forces from their other obligations under international humanitarian law. Particularly given the time that had elapsed since the warning was issued, those carrying out the attack should have checked whether civilians were present before proceeding with the attack. Furthermore, if, as appears, this was a direct attack on a civilian object, this would constitute a war crime.
‘Everyone was looking for their children’
At around 10:30am on 9 October, Israeli air strikes hit a market in Jabalia refugee camp, located a few kilometres north of Gaza City, killing at least 69 people. The market street is known to be one of the busiest commercial areas in northern Gaza. That day it was even more crowded than usual, as it was filled with thousands of people from nearby areas who had fled their homes empty-handed earlier that morning after receiving text messages from the Israeli army.
Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab reviewed six videos showing the aftermath of the airstrike on Jabalia camp market. The images show a densely populated area with multi-storey buildings. Videos of the aftermath and satellite imagery show at least three multi-storey buildings completely destroyed and several structures in the surroundings heavily damaged. Numerous deceased bodies are also seen under the rubble in the graphic footage.
According to the Israeli military, they were targeting “a mosque in which Hamas members had been present” when they struck Jabalia market, but they have provided no evidence to substantiate their claim. Regardless, membership in a political group does not in itself make an individual targetable. Satellite imagery analysed by Amnesty International showed no mosque in the immediate vicinity of the market street.
Based on witness testimony, satellite imagery, and verified videos, the attack, which resulted in high civilian casualties was indiscriminate and must be investigated as a war crime.
Imad Hamad, aged 19, was killed in the strike on the Jabalia market while he was on his way to buy bread and mattresses for the family. His father, Ziyad Hamad, described to Amnesty International how a day earlier their family had left their home in Beit Hanoun after receiving a warning message from the Israeli army, and had walked almost five kilometres to a UNRWA-run school, which was operating as a shelter, in Jabalia camp.
On the walk, his son, Imad, had carried his toddler brother on his shoulders. The next day, Ziyad told Amnesty International, he was carrying Imad’s dead body on his own shoulders, taking his son to be buried.
Ziyad described the hellish scenes he encountered at the morgue where he found his son’s body, along with many others.
“The bodies were burned, I was scared of looking. I didn’t want to look, I was scared of looking at Imad’s face. The bodies were scattered on the floor. Everyone was looking for their children in these piles. I recognized my son only by his trousers. I wanted to bury him immediately, so I carried my son and got him out. I carried him.”
When Amnesty International spoke to Ziyad and his displaced family, they were at a UNRWA-run school which was sheltering displaced people. He said there were no basic services or sanitation, and that they had no mattresses.
Ziyad’s despair at the injustices he has suffered is palpable.
“What did I do to deserve this?” he asked.
“To lose my son, to lose my house, to sleep on the floor of a classroom? My children are wetting themselves, of panic, of fear, of cold. We have nothing to do with this. What fault did we commit? I raised my child, my entire life, for what? To see him die while buying bread.”
While Amnesty’s researcher was talking to Ziyad over the phone, another air strike hit nearby.
Since Amnesty researchers interviewed Ziyad on 10 October, conditions for internally displaced people have deteriorated further, due to the scale of the displacement and the extent of the destruction and the devastating effects of the total blockade imposed since 9 October. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of internally displaced people in Gaza had reached 1 million by 19 October, including over 527,500 people who are staying in UNRWA emergency shelters in central and southern Gaza.
‘We cannot even count our dead’
On 10 October an Israeli air strike hit a six-storey building in Sheikh Radwan, a district of Gaza City, at 4:30pm. The strike completely destroyed the building and killed at least 40 civilians.
Satellite imagery suggests damage to buildings on this street sometime between 12:11UTC on 10 October and 7:30UTC on 11 October. The Crisis Evidence Lab geolocated two videos posted to social media that corroborate the destruction of homes in Sheikh Radwan. One of the videos, which was posted online on 10 October, shows people pulling the body of a dead infant from the rubble.
Amnesty International spoke to Mahmoud Ashour whose daughter, Iman, and her four children, Hamza, six months, Ahmad, two years, Abdelhamid six, and Rihab, eight, were all killed in the attack.
“My daughter and her children came here to seek safety because this area was relatively safe in previous attacks. But I couldn’t protect them, I have no trace left of my daughter.”
Mahmoud described the extent of the devastation:
“I’m talking to you now as I’m trying to remove the rubble with my hands. We cannot even count our dead.”
Fawzi Naffar, 61, said that 19 of his family members, including his wife, children and grandchildren, were all killed in the air strike. When Amnesty International spoke to Fawzi five days after the air strike, he had only been able to retrieve the remains of his daughter-in-law and his “son’s shoulder.”
Amnesty International’s research found that a Hamas member had been residing on one of the floors of the building, but he was not there at the time of the air strike. Membership in a political group does not itself make an individual a military target.
Even if that individual was a fighter, the presence of a fighter in a civilian building does not transform that building or any of the civilians therein into a military objective. International humanitarian law requires Israeli forces to take all feasible precautions to minimise harm to civilians and civilian property, including by cancelling or postponing the attack if it becomes apparent that it would be indiscriminate or otherwise unlawful.
These precautions were not taken ahead of the air strike in Sheikh Radwan. The building was known to be full of civilian residents, including many children, and the danger to them could have been anticipated. This is an indiscriminate attack which killed and injured civilians and must be investigated as a war crime.
Amnesty International is calling on;
The Israeli authorities to:
- Immediately end unlawful attacks and abide by international humanitarian law; including by ensuring they take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects and refraining from direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.
- Immediately allow unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians.
- Urgently lift its illegal blockade on Gaza, which amounts to collective punishment and is a war crime, in the face of the current devastation and humanitarian imperatives.
- Rescind their appalling “evacuation” order, which has left more than one million people displaced.
- Grant immediate access to the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory to carry out investigations, including collecting time sensitive evidence and testimonies.
The international community and particularly Israel’s allies, including EU member states, the US and the UK, to:
- Take concrete measures to protect Gaza’s civilian population from unlawful attacks.
- Impose a comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict given that serious violations amounting to crimes under international law are being committed. States must refrain from supplying Israel with arms and military materiel, including related technologies, parts and components, technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance. They should also call on states supplying arms to Palestinian armed groups to refrain from doing so.
- Refrain from any statement or action that would, even indirectly, legitimize Israel’s crimes and violations in Gaza.
- Pressure Israel to lift its illegal 16-year blockade of the Gaza strip which amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s population, is a war crime and is a key aspect of Israel’s apartheid system.
- Ensure the International Criminal Court’s ongoing investigation into the situation of Palestine receives full support and all necessary resources.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to:
Urgently expedite its ongoing investigation in the situation of Palestine, examining alleged crimes by all parties, and including the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians.
Hamas and other armed groups to:
Immediately end deliberate attacks on civilians, the firing of indiscriminate rockets, and hostage-taking. They must release civilian hostages unconditionally and immediately.
‘De Amerikaanse president Biden heeft Israël gewaarschuwd dat het de steun van zijn bondgenoten aan het kwijtraken is door “het lukraak bombarderen” van de Gazastrook. Volgens cijfers van de gezondheidsautoriteiten in Gaza zijn zeker 18.000 mensen gedood en meer dan 50.000 mensen gewond geraakt.”
BIDEN: ISRAEL VERLIEST STEUN DOOR LUKRAKE
De Amerikaanse president Biden heeft Israël gewaarschuwd dat het de steun van zijn bondgenoten aan het kwijtraken is door “het lukraak bombarderen” van de Gazastrook. Volgens cijfers van de gezondheidsautoriteiten in Gaza zijn zeker 18.000 mensen gedood en meer dan 50.000 mensen gewond geraakt.
Biden sprak op een fondsenwerfbijeenkomst voor zijn herverkiezingscampagne. Niet eerder sinds het uitbreken van de oorlog uitte hij zulke zware kritiek op het handelen van Israël. De VS is de belangrijkste bondgenoot voor de Israëliërs.
De president vertelde aan zijn gehoor van voornamelijk Joodse donateurs dat hij Netanyahu heeft gewaarschuwd niet dezelfde fouten te maken als de VS na de aanslagen van 11 september 2001. “We hadden niet in Afghanistan hoeven zijn. We hadden zo veel dingen niet hoeven doen.”
Hij vindt ook dat premier Netanyahu zijn ministersploeg moet veranderen. De Amerikaanse president pikte Netanyahu’s minister van Veiligheid eruit: de ultranationalistische Itamar Ben-Gvir. De leider van de uiterst rechtse partij Joodse Kracht werd meermaals veroordeeld, onder meer voor het aanzetten tot racisme. Ben-Gvir is een tegenstander van een eigen staat voor de Palestijnen.
Biden noemde het huidige Israëlische kabinet de conservatiefste regering in de geschiedenis van het land. Netanyahu “moet zijn regering aanpassen. Dit kabinet maakt het erg moeilijk”, zei hij.
“We hebben een mogelijkheid om de regio te verenigen”, zei hij vandaag. “Maar we moeten zeker zijn dat Netanyahu begrijpt dat hij wat moet bewegen. Je kan geen ‘nee’ zeggen tegen een Palestijnse staat. Dat wordt het moeilijke deel.”