Aftermath of an Israeli air strike on the building of Hamas’ Ministry of Interior in Gaza City Nov. 16, 2012
BETHLEHEM – The Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Tuesday condemned a decision by the United Kingdom to grant immunity to Israel’s army chief while visiting the country.
Lt. General Benny Gantz, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, arrived in the UK on Tuesday, in the first visit of an Israeli army chief since 1998.
The UK government granted Gantz’s trip the status of Special Mission, thus granting him immunity from the UK’s criminal justice system, PCHR said.
Hickman & Rose Solicitors, who represent the victims of General Gantz’s actions together with PCHR, said the decision “sends the dangerous message that political considerations will be placed ahead of the rule of law.”
“Credible evidence exists indicating Mr. Gantz’s involvement in the commission of war crimes: these allegations should be investigated and, if appropriate, Mr. Gantz should be prosecuted,” PCHR said.
“He should not be pre-emptively granted immunity by the UK Government, circumventing normal criminal justice procedures.”
Lt. General Gantz is suspected of involvement in the commission of war crimes, particularly with respect to his role in the November 2012 assault on the Gaza Strip, codenamed Operation Pillar of Defense, PCHR says.
A week earlier, the UK government also applied Special Mission status to the visit of Major General Doron Almog, a retired army official suspected of war crimes, granting him immunity from Britain’s criminal justice system.
Mr. Almog canceled his scheduled UK visit at the last minute for unknown reasons.
In 2005, a British court issued an arrest warrant for Major General Doron Almog in relation to the destruction of 59 Palestinian homes in Rafah refugee camp in 2002 as part of a sustained policy of house demolitions in Gaza, PCHR said.
British police were preparing to arrest Almog on suspicion of war crimes after he and his wife flew to the United Kingdom in 2005, but he refused to leave his plane at Heathrow airport following a tip-off about the arrest warrant and was allowed to return to Israel.
The decision to grant immunity to both Israeli officials “sends the clear message that Israel can commit war crimes in the Gaza Strip with impunity,” PCHR said.
There is a risk, the group said, that Special Missions will be used to protect allies of the government and undermine the “basic principle of equal application of the law and the UK’s international legal obligation to seek out and prosecute suspected war criminals.”
During the Nov 2012 Israeli attacks on Gaza, 182 Palestinians were killed, according to the World Health Organization’s Dec 2012 report, among whom 47 were children, including 16 under 5 years old. Another 1399 Palestinians were injured, most of them with multiple injuries.
It is only four years after Israel’s last major assault on Gaza, which killed over 1450 including those who died of their injuries, and injured over 5000. Then there are the random Israeli attacks throughout the years, leaving injured suffering even years later.
And there were the under-reported attacks in the week preceding the Nov 14 attacks: the Nov 8 killing of 13 year old Ahmed Abu Daqqa as he played football, the Nov 10 killing of Mohammed Harara (16) and Ahmed Harara (17) as they played football, the subsequent killings of Ahmed Al- Dirdissawi (18) and Matar Abu al-‘Ata (19) when they rushed to the scene of the Harara killings (source: PCHR).
Every December and January, I remember the victims of the 2008-2009 massacre, particularly some of the harder incidents of burning to death from white phosphorous bombing, or point blank shootings of loved ones. All ages suffered, although we tend to pick up on the children. Somehow their murders, their maimings, their imprisonment strikes us more.
Two cases from the November 2012 attacks struck me and stay with me: the killing of 4 year old Reham as she stood a few metres from the door of her Nusseirat camp home, outside of which an Israeli bomb exploded…and the murder of Nader, 14, killed by a precision drone missile as he walked to get food for his siblings… just two hours before the ceasefire.
Below are follow-up photos, the families and loved ones of Reham and Nader. Allah yerhamhum (Allah, God, bless them).
Mourning area for Reham Nabaheen, killed by an Israeli bombing outside her Nusseirat camp home.
Abu Reham looks to where the Israeli bomb struck, the shrapnel of which blasted into his home and struck his daughter in the temple, killing her.
Um Reham sits with other women, mourning her daughter.
Fatoum, Reham’s neighbour and close friend, stopped speaking after her friend’s killing. Also four years old, she is in shock from knowing her friend is dead. Abu Reham: “I love her like I loved my daughter.”
Roa’a, Reham’s infant cousin. Reham used to play with her and bring her treats.
In the days following Reham’s murder, we visit the family in the simple Nusseirat home. Beside a mourning room set up to receive family and friends, a portrait of the girl I’d only until then seen dead in the morgue.
The home is barebones simple, the old Palestinian style of home and courtyard reconstructed with refugee camp means: cheap cement, toxic asbestos roof, chipped paint, thin walls and doors, sparse decor…no frills. A single olive tree grows in one side of the courtyard.
Um Reham sits amongst female relatives and although her daughter was killed only a few days earlier, is strong and tells me of the day. We’d seen her at al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah on Nov 21, after the shelling. Further back from where the explosion hit, Um Reham was still wounded in her face by flying shrapnel. Her other two sons suffered only minor injuries.
“We’d gone to my sister’s home in Bureij, at the beginning of the attacks. There was so much bombing in Nusseirat, we were afraid to stay here, our kids were terrified. On the last day, we heard there would soon be a cease-fire and wanted to come home. I wanted to do laundry, to change my kids clothing. My sister told me to leave Reham with her, but I said no, I couldn’t leave my daughter behind.
After we’d returned to Nusseirat, we realized the bombing was still very heavy here. We were going to return to Bureij…“
Abu Reham, who we’d seen at the hospital morgue leaning over his daughter’s lifeless body, sobbing and kissing her, stoically continues explaining what happened that day.
Although Nusseirat was still being hammered, at the moment of the Israeli shelling which killed his daughter, it was relatively calm, he says.
“There was no visible danger, our neighbour across street was sitting on a chair by his doorway just minutes before the bombing. He left to go see something at a neighbour’s home…if he had not left, he would have been killed.“
He points out the two narrow courtyard doors to the street where a pocket in the asphalt speaks to the earlier bombing.
“It was around 4pm, one of the doors was closed, we were getting the kids ready to go back to Bureij. I’d brought out some cookies, and Reham went to get them out of the bag. She was reaching into the bag when the bomb struck. She was near the door, the shrapnel went right into her head. She died soon after, there was blood all over.
The sound of drones was insane then, it could’ve been a drone strike.”
“Tank,” his brother says, “it was a tank shell.”
The brother holds a girl.
“This is my daughter, Roa’a, she’s a year and a half old. Reham used to play with her every afternoon, she’d bring Roa’a chips and snacks… Reham used to always take care of her.”
A neighbour daughter comes over with his daughter, Fatoum (Fatema), 4 years old as Reham was. She is chubby cheeked and lovely, but unsmiling and won’t say a word.
“She came to play with Reham every day. A four year old shouldn’t have to know what death is, that her friend has been killed. She said to me, ‘my friend is dead, my friend died.’“
Abu Reham, whose daughter is just days dead, is worried about Fatoum who fell ill after learning Reham was dead.
“I love her like a daughter. Every child who loved my daughter, I love them like my own child (breaks down crying). I went to the cemetery, saw children from the area there, they had brought flowers and were tending Reham’s grave. They told me ‘we will visit her, even if your family moves, we’ll continue to visit her.’“
Nader Abu Mghaseeb, 14, killed by precision Israeli drone bombing as he went to get food for his siblings.
Abu Nader tells how his son was killed by an Israeli bombing
When Nader’s siblings awoke the morning after his murder, they asked for him, only to learn he’d been killed.
Abu Nader points to the hole in the road where the Israeli bomb which killed his son struck.
Shrapnel markings from the Israeli bombing which killed his son.
Light of the small shop to which Nader was headed when murdered by the Israeli bombing.
When killed, Nader was en route to the store to buy food for his siblings.
Pieces of the Israeli precision drone bomb which targeted Nader.
Pieces of the Israeli precision drone bomb which targeted Nader.
Pieces of the Israeli precision drone bomb which targeted Nader.
Pieces of the Israeli precision drone bomb which targeted Nader.
Nader’s watch and the memory chip from his cell phone, which he had with him when targeted by the Israeli bomb.
On the eastern outskirts of Deir al Balah, central Gaza, we go to the home of the 14 year old whose mutilated body set me sobbing when I saw it in al-Aqsa hospital on Nov 21. The family has a number of olive trees, from which they exist. Their simple home, just over a kilometre from the border and surrounded by trees on a small plot of land, is a little oasis in the over-crowded Strip. But for Abu Nader, it is now hell.
“I look at his jeans, I remember him. I look at the house, I remember him. I look there, look there, wherever I look, I’m reminded of Nader.
I hate this house, this area. I hate life now. I started to hate life when my son was killed.
You don’t stay in a place if your dear one is no longer there.”
We’re sitting in the small, nylon-walled tent behind his home, drinking bitter coffee and listening as Abu Nader tells us how his son was killed. Nader’s six younger siblings, for whom he’d been going to get food when killed, sit beside their father. When we walked into the tent, Abu Nader ran to one corner to grab a small vial of cologne, which he rolled onto the backs of our hands. Nader’s favourite.
“I had lit a fire and we were sitting like this. Sitting like this exactly. Nader asked if I had money, said he wanted to go to the shop to get food for dinner. I didn’t want him to go, but he said the ceasefire would start in a couple of hours, he’d be okay.
There was nothing to eat in the house. These kids need to eat, we’d had nothing in the house for 5 days.
Nader told me to warm the bread over the fire. He said he’d get some yogurt, some canned meat, anything so that all the kids could eat. One of his younger brothers went with Nader, but halfway there Nader told his brother to go back home. His brother kept saying he wanted to go with Nader, but Nader insisted he go back home, told him to wait for him at home.
His brother came back here and said to me, ‘Dad, Nader told me to come back here. He wouldn’t let me go with him to the store’. While he was telling me this, we heard a loud explosion.
My wife said that the explosion was very close to here. She told me to call Nader’s cellphone to see where he was. I called Nader but he cellphone was off. I kept trying to call him, and I ran to the street to try to find Nader.
I kept running until I reached the mosque. From the mosque I saw the light of the store.
And it was night, dark, about fifteen minutes after the evening prayer.
I was looking at the store and waiting for my son to come out of it, and didn’t see that my son was on the ground near me. There was blood all over the street. I thought it was water.
They fired a missile right at him.
When I saw him, I knelt down and grabbed him. There was no one around. I tried to pick him up but couldn’t. He was dead weight, heavy, I couldn’t pick him up on my own. And his legs were shredded, falling apart.
I started screaming, for anyone to hear and help me pick up my son and take him to the hospital.
No one heard me.
I left Nader and screamed to the houses around me, then came back to Nader, but no one heard me.
I sat next to him for a minute, panicking, didn’t know what to do.
I ran to another house to yell for help, but no one heard me.
I came back and wrapped my arms around him, put my head on his head. And I woke up in the hospital.
They killed him in a horrible way. They shot the missile right at him.
In the morning, one of Nader’s brothers came to me and said, ‘Nader’s bed is empty. Where is Nader?’
I told him, the Israeli army killed him.
We are all traumatized.
I’m not angry because Allah chose to take Nader. Allah gives and Allah takes. The hardest thing is that I saw how Nader died. In pieces. How can I live seeing my son cut into pieces? He was a child. He went to get food for his siblings.”
Abu Nader, a wiry frame and the weathered face of a farmer, repeatedly breaks into sobs as he re-tells the story of Nader’s killing.
He takes out a bag of the shrapnel bits he collected from the bomb which killed Nader, a collection of circular, square and jagged pieces, some with serial numbers inscribed, some with the wiring and chips of a precisely-fired missile. He also shows us Nader’s wristwatch, something I’d honed in on at the hospital, looking away from Nader’s shredded legs and noting the watch, a bright plastic stopwatch the kind most teens love.
We walk through the darkness of the unlit village, the only lights being the mosque near which Nader was killed and the shop to which he’d been headed. Abu Nader shows us the hole in the road where the missile hit, points out shrapnel marks… The same tormented pointing out of details that Abu Reham performed.
He points out the mosque, which Nader prayed at devoutly. Nader’s mother later reiterates, “he was such a good boy, didn’t talk back to his parents, was excellent in school.”
At the small shop Nader never made it to that day, the shop owner shakes his head in regret, echoes the words of Nader’s parents about the boy’s character. Abu Nader pulls hummus, processed meat and yogurt from the fridge, waving it at us… this is why Nader was killed, because he’d wanted to bring these things to his family.
Two children, of 47 in the Nov 2012 Israeli attacks alone, killed in brutal ways their parents can never forget, on the afternoon of the impending cease-fire. Zionist aggressors know no bounds.
- PCHR Weekly Report: 7 wounded, including 3 children, by Israeli troops this week (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Gaza: Palestinian farmer ‘killed by Israeli gunfire’ (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- 49th Violation of Truce Agreement: Israeli military invades and leveled land in north Gaza (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Civilian Infrastructure Targeted by Israeli Military
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) claims vast military gains from its targeting of hundreds of sites in Gaza, including substantial civilian property, during “Operation Pillar of Cloud,” the intensive 8-day bombing the IDF initiated on November 14, 2012. But Palestinian witnesses deny that fighters were present or that rockets had been or were being launched from many of the sites the IDF bombed. Palestinian witnesses also deny the claims of any other military advantage to Israel from the attacks. They say the intent of Israeli political and military leaders was to do exactly what Israeli forces actually did: destroy civilian property and punish and traumatize the civilian population of Gaza.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post last March, Yaakov Katz reported the IDF desire “to do some periodic ‘maintenance work’ in Gaza and to mow the lawn, so to speak, with regard to terrorism, with the main goal of boosting its deterrence.” Thus, the IDF graphically admitted the political goal that requires periodic attacks, destroying Palestinian civilian property, and killing Palestinian civilians.
Evidence was collected by members of a US and UK delegation who were in Gaza from November 27 to December 3. Members viewed destruction throughout the Gaza Strip and interviewed Palestinian witnesses. They found substantial evidence of violation of international humanitarian law with regard to attacks on civilians and civilian property.
An independent and impartial investigation and prosecution is needed to establish the guilt or innocence of those responsible. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) or, if that approach is blocked, another tribunal established by the General Assembly under Article 22 of the UN Charter, may initiate such an investigation. If the investigation shows evidence of violations, the perpetrators should be prosecuted–including those Israeli political and military leaders who ordered the violations. Otherwise their immunity is likely to allow further violations.
Not waiting for the ICC to initiate its investigation, the Palestine Center for Human Rights is calling for establishment of a commission composed of prominent attorneys and jurists to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation in the coming weeks and issue a report on its findings.
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law (IHL) establishes rules for armed conflict and military occupation with the purpose of minimizing civilian suffering and casualties.
These rules apply to a country engaged in an occupation of territory not its own. They apply to states and non-states alike. Thus, the rules apply to both Israeli and Palestinian military forces in territory occupied by Israel, including the Gaza Strip. Although Israel withdrew its illegal settlers from Gaza in 2005, Israeli military forces retain control over the territory, including its airspace and its land and sea borders. The Israeli military conducts periodic military operations with drones and F-16s and conducts military incursions on a regular basis. Israeli naval forces regularly intercept and shoot at Palestinian fishermen. Israeli forces along the border regularly shoot at farmers attempting to work their land in Gaza along the border with Israel.
As occupying power, the rules provide Israel with an obligation to protect Palestinian civilians and Palestinian civilian property. While the Israel government may use police power to preserve order and protect its own population, its right to use military force in occupied territory is restricted, as described in an article by Noura Erakat, “No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The rules protect not just civilians but also civilian property and other civilian infrastructure. Under the rules, a civilian building or other civilian property might conceivably be a legitimate military target–but only if it is being used for a military purpose and no other method is possible. Each such facility must be assumed to be civilian object–and therefore off limits as a military target–unless and until evidence is shown that the building is actually being used for a military purpose and that the attack is a military necessity.
For example, the Hague Convention IV of 1907 regarding the Laws and Customs of War on Land provides in Article 23, “it is especially forbidden . . .(g) To destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.” Article 25 provides, “ The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.”
In its advisory opinion on the wall, the International Court of Justice found that the Fourth Geneva Convention was applicable to occupied Palestinian territory. The convention provides in Article 53: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” Although Israeli withdrew its illegal settlers in 2005, Gaza is still considered under the control of Israel and remains occupied territory.
Even if evidence is found that a building is being used for a military purpose and the attack is the only way to accomplish the military objective, an attack on the building is still unlawful if the injuries to civilians or damage to civilian infrastructure is expected to be disproportionate to the anticipated military advantage from the attack. The principle is part of customary law that applies to all nations. Protocol I of the Geneva Convention defines this requirement:
“With respect to attacks, the following precautions shall be taken: (a) those who plan or decide upon an attack shall: . . . (iii) refrain from deciding to launch any attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”
Ownership or use of a building by a government or by a semi-governmental authority that is engaged in military combat is not sufficient to legitimize an attack. The criteria of actual military use, necessity, and proportionality must be met before any attack on the building can be launched. Otherwise the attack violates International Humanitarian Law.
Government buildings were closed and evacuated
Government authorities in Gaza ordered all government buildings, including ministries, police stations, schools, and other facilities, closed and evacuated as Israeli military actions escalated around the time an Israeli rocket extra-judicially executed the leader of the military wing of the Hamas movement, Ahmed al Ja’bari and his bodyguard on November 14. The closure of government facilities extended even to prisoners locked up in a jail at one police station in Gaza City visited by one of the authors–the prisoners were all released and told to return when the Israeli attacks ended and a real cease fire was in place.
Police stations and government ministries and offices are not inherently legitimate military targets. Police and most government officials are civilians, regardless of their political views, religious affiliation, or party affiliation. If a police station or a government building is not being used for military purposes, an attack on the police station or ministry is a violation of international humanitarian law.
Furthermore, collective punishment of civilians and reprisals against civilians and civilian property are both forbidden by international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention provides in Article 33: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. . . Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”
Thus, the civilian population may not be punished by loss of a building or other civilian infrastructure because of the acts of certain resistance fighters. The attack on the building can only be justified if the attack is to accomplish a present and necessary military objective and the military advantage from the attack outweighs damage to civilians and civilian property.
Israeli Defence Force explains its attack on Government Buildings
The Israeli Defense Force web site provides a day-by-day and hour-by-hour report of actions it undertook in Gaza from November 14 to 21. The site reports on November 17 at 8:55am that “as part of the IDF targeting of government buildings, [Prime Minister] Ismail Haniya’s headquarters, the Hamas Ministry of Interior, and the Hamas police compound, were targeted.”
The IDF website recorded a statement issued by the IDF’s spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordecai on November 17 at 9:10am, who said, “the IDF struck buildings belonging to the Hamas government. Ismail Haniyeh’s headquarters, which serve as the headquarters for the Hamas government, was destroyed in a strike. Additionally, the Hamas’ police headquarters and the homeland security headquarters in Gaza City were also targeted.”
On November 21 at 7:14am the IDF website reported that “The targets included the Ministry of Internal Security – which served as one of the main command and control centers for the Hamas terror organization.”
Our observation in Gaza confirms that the Israeli military attacked and completely destroyed the Ministry of Interior, the Prime Minister’s government building, and several police stations. We also observed severe damage to the Ministry of Health, located near the Ministry of Interior. The damage to the Ministry of Health was not mentioned by the IDF website.
The Interior Ministry was converted to rubble, with craters about 15 feet deep and about 40 feet across in several places from the bombs dropped. In addition to the Health Ministry, buildings across streets on two sides, including one housing a travel agency and a bank, had all facing windows destroyed among other severe damage. The Israeli bombs also killed or wounded civilians in the neighborhood.
The building housing the Prime Minister’s office was also converted to rubble. Adjacent residences were severely damaged.
Palestinian witnesses we interviewed denied that either the Interior Ministry or Prime Minister Haniyeh’s office was being used in any way at all, as all government buildings, including both of these, had been closed and evacuated. If true that the buildings were closed, evacuated, and not being used in anticipation of Israeli strikes, the reasons given for the attacks on the IDF web site do not fully explain how the buildings could have been used for military purposes during the time Israel was conducting its military operations.
The IDF explains its attacks on residential housing
The IDF website also mentions Israeli air force attacks that destroyed or damaged residential housing. On November 17 at 7:10pm it reports that GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Tal Russo addressed the media stating, “Most of the weaponry of the terror organizations is stored in residential houses, from which they launch the missiles and the rockets against Israel.”
Similarly, on November 19 at 7:10am the IDF website reports, “The IDF targeted buildings owned by senior terrorist operatives, used as command posts and weapon storage facilities.”
On November 20 at 6:40 am, the website reports, “We also struck the house of several senior officers within the terror organizations, of the rank of company commander and battalion commander.”
Delegation members visited with Wallid Al Nasassra, a neighbor of one of the 55 houses destroyed by IDF bombs during Operation Pillar of Cloud. An F-16 rocket targeted a home 200 yards away in which his brother, Teewfiq Mamduh Id Abid, Teewfiq’s wife, Amani Ibrm Qader, and 10 of Teewfiq’s children were living. Two of the children were killed in this attack and 7 children were injured. Only one of the children escaped uninjured. The witness’s brother and his wife were both severely injured. The Al Nasassra area is between Rafah and Khan Younis, on land evacuated by Israeli settlers in 2005. Wallid Al Nasassra denied that rockets were stored in the demolished home or that the owners were in any way associated with fighters. Nor, he said, were any of the neighboring homes used for storing rockets. He also said that neighbors would not permit fighters to be in the vicinity of their homes. Israeli forces have so far released no evidence supporting their assertion of rocket storage at this or other residences they destroyed.
Similarly, the attack on the houses of several senior officers would only be legitimate if military activity was being conducted in the houses, the attack on the houses was the only way to accomplish the military goal, and if the military advantage from the attack was not outweighed by damage to civilians and civilian property. Nothing in the IDF report indicated whether the houses of the senior officers contained women and children and whether the senior officers who supposedly were the targets were at home during the attacks.
The IDF explains its attacks on a football stadium
The IDF website quotes IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai on November 19 at 1:40pm stating: “we attacked a stadium in Gaza City after receiving verified information of a launch from within the stadium, again showing the terrorists’ continued use of civilian centers.” On November 19, @IDFSpokesperson posted this message on Twitter: “3 days ago, Palestinian terrorists used a stadium to fire rockets to Tel Aviv & Jerusalem. We targeted site this morn.” The post included a map with X marking two spots within the stadium from which the IDF says rockets were fired 3 days earlier.
However, a Palestinian witness at the site denied that any rockets were launched. Large craters are found adjacent the goals at both ends of the football field as if the F-16 pilot was aiming for scoring goals with his bombs rather than quenching rocket fire. Bombs also hit seating areas of the stadium. No fighters were reported hit by any of the Israeli bombs striking the stadium. The IDF so far has not released evidence supporting their assertion of rocket firing from the stadium. Israeli forces did not explain how they could wait 3 days to attack the site while still claiming that bombing the stadium provided military advantage and remained a military necessity. The necessity argument is further diminished by the lack of IDF explanation as to how cratering the field in two places, rendering it unusable for football, would prevent, rather than encourage, its future use as a site for launching rockets, if indeed the IDF actually has evidence to prove it ever was a launch site.
The IDF explains its attacks on a financial institution
The IDF website reports on November 20 at 6:40 am, “A financial institution used by Hamas to fuel its terror activity was targeted in the northern Gaza Strip.” At 9:30 that morning Brig. Gen. Mordecai said, “During the night we attacked and hit one hundred targets, including a financial center controlled by Hamas.
While the financial institution may have been engaged in financial activity that the IDF objected to, the IDF justified its attack exclusively based on its financial activity rather than based on any military activity taking place at the financial institution.
The IDF position that a financial institution is a legitimate military target if engaged in financing an organization considered to be an enemy is likely to concern Israelis who may wonder whether their own financial institutions may now become legitimate military targets if they have financial transactions with the Israeli government, settlers, or other occupation authorities. The Israeli justification may also surprise large numbers of Americans who believe that the World Trade Center in New York–which housed financial institutions–was not a legitimate military target.
In the case of the financial institution, the IDF statement that it attacked this civilian property because of its financial activity appears to be an admission of a plan or policy to attack civilian property without regard to the requirements of military objective and military necessity.
In a report on November 17, the BBC reported, “The army told the BBC it wanted to hit hundreds more [targets] and that it was legitimate to target anything connected with Hamas.” Thus, Israeli military officials further admitted plan or policy to base its targeting outside the requirements of international humanitarian law.
According to the Palestine Center for Human Rights weekly report for November 14-21, the Israeli Occupation Forces carried out 1350 air strikes in which 1400 missiles were launched during the 8-day assault on Gaza: 55 houses were completely destroyed and hundreds of houses sustained damage. 2 mosques were completely destroyed and 34 others were damaged. 8 government establishments, 13 security offices and police stations, and 2 bridges connecting the central Gaza strip with the north were destroyed. 6 media offices, 6 health institutions, 28 educational institutions, and 22 civil and charity associations were targeted. And dozens of agricultural lands sustained major damage.
PCHR states that 168 Palestinians, including 100 civilians were killed by the Israeli military. Among the civilians killed were 35 children, 14 women, and 2 journalists. 1288 Palestinians were wounded including 1261 civilians. Among the civilians wounded were 466 children, 219 women, and 10 journalists.
While in Gaza, the authors visited sites including the government Interior Ministry and the adjacent Health Ministry, the office of the prime minister, a police station, a soccer stadium, a sports facility, and the Islamic bank. Palestinian sources maintain that no fighters were present and no rockets were fired from any of these places and thus they were not legitimate military targets.
The IDF site does not explain its attacks on a sports facility
An F-16 dropped bombs on a building in Gaza City that housed the Al Jazeera Club and the Islamic Bank. Housed on the second floor of a four story building, the Al Jazeera Club is a sports facility for athletes, girls and boys, and disabled people of all ages. It particularly includes facilities to help the disabled and rehabilitate them physically and socially and to integrate them into other segments of society. Two members of the Al Jazeera Club represented Palestine at the London paralympic games. One member won a Gold medal in javelin at the Asian Paralympic Games in 2010. The Club is the only sports facility for the disabled in Gaza. The Club is also one of few places in Gaza that encourages girls and women to participate in sports. The bombs completely destroyed the entire Club facility.
The Islamic Bank, located on the ground floor just below the Club, was also completely destroyed, leaving a large crater in its floor. As other banks in Gaza were also targeted, Palestinians think that destroying the bank was the target of the attack.
Two floors of unfinished new construction were located above the Club.
According to PCHR, no fighters were in or near the building. No rockets were being launched. No activity of any kind was in the building, as it had been evacuated. The building could therefore not have been a legitimate military target.
A building next door was also completely destroyed making seven families homeless. The IDF has identified no military objective that outweighs the destruction of the building, the Al Jazeera Club, the Islamic Bank, and the residential building next door. Thus, the attack could also be considered disproportionate.
In the cases investigated, Israel’s destruction of civilian property appears to have provided no military advantage. Damage to civilian property was disproportionate and the IDF website admits that some of the attacks were in reprisal. In all of the cases reported here, interviewees reported that no Palestinian fighters were in the property bombed by Israeli forces. Consequently military necessity does not appear to be available.
Further investigation is needed into the apparent violations. The International Criminal Court should conduct the investigation or, if the ICC fails to do so, an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel should be established by the UN General Assembly as a ‘subsidiary organ’ under U.N. Charter Article 22 to conduct the investigation. The ICC or the tribunal should prosecute Israel’s top generals and other military and political leaders if the investigation confirms the violations.
Israel’s “Pillar of Cloud” follows Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” by less than four years. Immunity and impunity continue–despite the findings of the UN Goldstone Report. If that immunity and impunity is allowed to continue further violations are inevitable.
James Marc Leas and Theresa McDermott participated in the US and UK emergency delegation to Gaza November 27 to December 3. James, from S. Burlington Vermont, is a co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee. Theresa, from Edinburgh Scotland, participated in two of the voyages to Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement
- From Soweto 1976 to Gaza 2012: What we need is People’s Power! (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Gaza City – The past few days have been harrowing, yet still deeply inspiring in Gaza as people in the strip must carry on with their lives after the Israeli army’s deadly 8 day offensive operation “Pillar of Cloud” which killed at least 160 Palestinians and left over 1000 wounded, many of them severely. To “carry on” in Gaza does not mean returning to predictable routines or a reasonable set of expectations of calmness in what amounts to everyday life in most parts of the world. This is exceptionally true for Palestinian fishermen who return to the daily struggle with the Israeli Navy to fish in waters that are rightfully theirs.
There has been no ceasefire for these men who bravely attempt to exercise not only their legal rights, but perhaps more urgently, the human right to fulfil the most basic of needs, such as feeding their families and paying rent. Since November 26th, 2012, 15 fishermen have been arrested and 6 boats destroyed. As participants in an emergency delegation to Gaza, we have had the opportunity to speak to several of the fishermen arrested, members of their families, and a Palestinian activist, Maher Alaa, who was documenting the situation while aboard one of the adjacent boats, which also received heavy gunfire. We spoke with concerned relatives in the afternoon after the attacks, but we did not get the full story until Maher returned in the evening.
Israeli gunboat off coast of Gaza.
The scene Maher described was chaotic, but not uncommon. Only one boat sailed the full length of six nautical miles, the distance supposedly conceded by Israel as a term of the ceasefire, before it was attacked. Israeli Navy and helicopters assaulted the others boats, most far inwards of six miles, with live fire periodically from the early morning until evening. (It’s also essential to keep in mind that Gazans were guaranteed 20 nautical miles for fishing in the Olso Accords.) The boat of Jamal Baker (20) was completely destroyed. Others had engines destroyed from bullets. Five men from the al-Hessi family were ordered to take off their clothes and jump into the water, which is a common humiliation tactic deployed by the Israeli Navy. They were then forcefully arrested at gunpoint and their boat impounded for the second time in one year. The al-Hessi’s boat alone was the main source of income for the twenty-five person crew and the families depending on them.
Another brave Gazan fisherman, Mohammed Morad Baker (40), was fired upon and ordered to strip his clothes and leave his boat. According to Maher, he looked directly at the Israeli gunboat captain and responded loudly “You can put a bullet in my head before I will jump into the water.” He then draped his body over the engine to protect it. This brave act apparently caught the Israeli soldiers off guard as he was then able to navigate another course and avoid being detained.
In the aftermath of an eight day war and what Dr. Khalil Abu-Foul of the Palestine Red Crescent describes as a “chronic, acute and protracted state of emergency” in Gaza, the heroic acts of fishermen like Mohamed Baker are often left out of the broader mainstream media’s discussion of military and diplomatic victory or defeat.
It has often been said that “existence is resistance” in Palestine. From what I have seen here, Gazans are doing far more than just existing. They are standing up with dignity and ingenuity to a slow and inhuman process of destabilization and colonization that many feel is intended to gradually force Gaza to become uninhabitable for Palestinians. Mohamed Baker and the other fishermen’s refusal to acquiesce to the destruction of their livelihoods is a victory over the cowardly conscience of Israeli soldiers who make sport of shooting at unarmed men, most of whom are very poor and supporting families with over ten children.
It’s also heartening to witness that after such a traumatic eight days where many people did not leave their houses for fear of their lives, Gaza’s streets are alive. Just across from our apartment at Al-Bakri Tower, families are filling a wedding hall. Dozens of youth pile into the back of trucks, enthusiastically beating on drums. Adults and children alike laugh and hold hands as they perform Debke, a traditional wedding dance. Though Khalil Shahin, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, has spent long nights taking only as little as two hours of sleep while documenting and double checking the casualties and injuries from the conflict to avoid duplication, he still smiles brightly as he tells of reviving plans for his daughter’s upcoming wedding, which had been postponed due to the fighting.
In the afternoons, children pour out of the schools, many of which were used to shelter thousands during the recent bombings. They kick cans and soccer balls while approaching our delegation with openness, curiosity and playfulness. The shock they have just endured will likely remain with them in some ways for the rest of their lives, but the strong sense of community and family is evident. I cannot help but wonder how children and families from the United States would cope given such conditions, especially with the breakdown of the communal structure and obsessive focus on individualism in our culture.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful things I have seen throughout our short time here is that, despite the very legitimate anger, mourning and failure of the political process to provide scarcely any justice to Palestinians, the Gazans I have met know better than to waste their lives on hate. The suffering they have seen all around them is too great to wish upon others. Just today we sat with Dr. Anton Shuhaibar, a Palestinian physician and also one of Gaza’s 3,000 Christians, who described at length his hope for a solution that includes psychological healing for all parties involved, especially the youth, so that both Israel and Palestine’s children can live as neighbours. His sentiment was not without critique of long needed political changes that would have to be implemented for this vision to be a possibility. However, the intention I sensed from his words reminded me of what Mamie Till uttered so profoundly in response to the brutal and racist lynching of her son in Mississippi in the fall of 1955: “I have not a minute to hate. I’ll pursue justice for the rest of my life.”
Palestinian farmer in Johr Al-Deek.
Gaza’s farmers continue to pursue justice on the issue of land rights. Yesterday, November 29th at approximately 9:30 AM, members of our delegation accompanied other international solidarity activists and Palestinians from the Ministry of Agriculture to the farm of Ahmad Hassan Badawi who lives and farms along the border with Israel in an area called Johr Al-Deek. Mr. Badawi has remained on his land despite multiple incursions and direct attacks from the Israeli Occupation Forces, including attacks during the recent Israeli offensive which killed many of his sheep and chickens.
Much of Ahmad’s farmland has now been rendered useless by Israel’s arbitrarily declared buffer zone, which has confiscated around twenty -per cent of Gaza’s arable land. After the November 21st ceasefire, negotiations were supposedly in place that Hassan would now be able to farm within 300 meters of the fence. The allowed distance has often changed and has nothing to do with international law or any understandable pattern. After we heard from Hassan and other farmers about their situation, we approached the barb wire fence, which also separates residents of Johr al-Deek from their former water source. In a manner of minutes, multiple shots were fired in our direction by Israeli soldiers. Moments later, tear gas canisters were launched within a few feet of where we were standing. This treatment was mild compared to many other instances, including the killing of a young Palestinian named Anwar Abdul Hadi Musallam Qudaih (20) in Khan Yunis on November 23rd and the injury of 14 others.
One does not need to travel far in any direction to witness the destruction wreaked by the Israeli offensive. Yesterday in Tal al-Hawa we met with Ahmed Suleman Ateya. His entire house and a small olive grove were destroyed when Israel targeted an empty house across the street ostensibly used by militants. His was not the only other house flattened nearby by Israel’s “precision guided” missile strikes. A former farmer, Ahmed is sixty-six years old and has no money to rebuild and no permanent place to house his family who are staying with relatives in Al-Tufah while he searches for scrap metal from the rubble of his home to sell for a few shekels. As we talked with Ahmed, an Islamic relief agency arrived to provide him with a heavy blanket for the winter and a few other items. Mr. Ateya received them gratefully and with a dignity which escapes those who have not suffered such loss.
Ahmad Hassan Badawi amid ruins in Gaza City.
The wounds from operation “Pillar of Cloud” are obvious and the stories we have heard are tragic, but a spirit of resilience and determination is equally visible in the eyes of the families we have visited. Last night, Gazans were in the streets celebrating the UN General Assembly’s decision to upgrade Palestine’s status to a non-member observer state. The United States was one of only nine UN countries, including Israel and Canada, to vote against the resolution. Even so, Palestinians continue to extend hospitality to the members of our delegation as relentlessly as the fishermen who refuse to be pushed from their waters. It is my hope that residents of the United States will learn such strength based in friendship and resistance to inhumane policies, demanding that our government recognize the aspirations and political rights of Palestinians that have been ignored now for decades.
- PCHR Statement On Ongoing Attacks Against Palestinian Fishermen In Gaza (imemc.org)
- Palestine: More land taken in WB, two succumb to serious injuries, 70 year old farmer assaulted, & Gaza’s fishermen taken (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
- PCHR Statement On Ongoing Attacks Against Palestinian Fishermen In Gaza (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns continued Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and expresses concern about the escalation of these violations, which have resulted in the arrest of four fishermen and the confiscation of a fishing boat belonging to a fisherman from the Gaza Strip.
According to the findings of investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:00 on Monday, 22 October 2012, Israeli naval forces positioned off Al-Waha resort northwest of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, opened fire on a group of fishermen and arrested four fishermen while they were fishing 2 nautical miles offshore. The arrested men were identified as: Ramez Izat Baker (41), Khamis Sobhi Baker (43), Arafat Mohammad Najib Baker (20), Bayan Khamis Baker (17). In his testimony to a PCHR fieldworker, ‘Eid Mohssen ‘Eid Baker (23) from the northern Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, who was near the scene at the time of the attack, reported the following:
“At approximately 10:00 on Monday, 22 October 2012, I was fishing with my brothers on my father’s boat near al-Soudanya area, in the north of Gaza, nearly 2 nautical miles off the shore, while my cousins’ boat was fishing approximately 200 meters away from us, when I saw an Israeli gunboat approaching us. One of the soldiers used a speakerphone and told us to sail towards the north, however, we went south and continued fishing. 15 minutes later, the gunboat came again at great speed and suddenly they started shooting randomly at us. One of the soldiers ordered us to stop, but we kept sailing south in escape of the open fire. My cousin Ramez Baker’s boat suddenly stopped after a bullet hit the boat engine, and the Israeli gunboat approached it, to a distance of nearly 30 meters. I saw the four fishermen, Ramez, Arafat, Khamis and his son Bayan, take off their clothes, jump in the water amidst the continuous shooting, and swim towards the Israeli gunboat. The soldiers confiscated the fishermen’s boat and transported it towards the northern side.”
It should be noted that Israeli forces have recently imposed more restrictions on the work of fishermen in the Gaza Strip. Since 2000, fishermen have been denied their right to sail and fish freely. Israeli forces reduced the area of fishing from 20 nautical miles, which was established upon in the agreements signed between Palestinians and Israel, to 6 nautical miles in 2008. However, Israeli forces have continued to prevent fishermen from going beyond 3 nautical miles since 2009. As a result, fishermen are prevented from reaching areas beyond that distance where fish is abundant. Sometimes, Israeli forces also chase fishermen within the 3 nautical mile area. Consequently, Palestinian fishermen have lost 85% of their source of income, because they are denied access to Palestinian waters.
PCHR condemns the recurrence of violations committed by the Israeli naval forces against Palestinian fishermen. PCHR believes that these violations are committed in the context of a policy of collective punishment against civilians, and that they are aimed at preventing civilians from meeting their subsistence needs. Such actions are prohibited under international humanitarian and international human rights law.
PCHR holds that the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is illegal and constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. It is also a war crime, the recurrence of which must be prevented by all parties, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. This view is maintained in legal opinions issued by many international legal experts and UN bodies concerned with human right and international humanitarian law.
In light of the above, PCHR:
- Calls upon Israel to immediately release the arrested fishermen, return the confiscated boat to its owners, and compensate the victims for any material or psychological damages caused by the attack;
- Calls upon Israel to respect the right to freedom of movement of fishermen in the Gaza Strip, to immediately put an end to its policy of chasing and arresting Palestinian fishermen, to allow them to sail and fish freely in the Gaza Sea;
- Calls upon Israel to put an end to the illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War; and
- Calls upon the international community and the High Contacting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil their legal and moral obligations, apply the rules of international law, and put a just end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
- Israeli Navy Chases Fishing Boats, Tries To Sink Them (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Army Opens Fire At Fishermen In Gaza (imemc.org)
- 13 Israeli attacks on Palestinian fishermen in past two months (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Haniya, in her home in al Nussairat.
On Monday, 10 September, 2012, Israeli warplanes launched 2 missiles at a vast tract of land in the west of al-Nussairat refugee camp in the Middle Area of the Gaza Strip. As a result, 2 rooms and a container on the land were destroyed. 10 olive trees and 23 houses were also damaged. Additionally, 7 Palestinian civilians, including 4 children and 2 women, were wounded. This attack targeted civilian objects which is a violation of international law.
Haniya Abdul Hadi Kabaja (60) is one of the women who sustained minor injuries on the night of the attack. She recounts that: “At around 2.00am in the night, we woke up to the sound of shelling. We were all very scared but we went back to sleep. 15 or so minutes later, we heard more shelling and shrapnel hitting surfaces outside. Something hit my face and, when I touched it, I felt myself bleeding. My son, Anas, saw this and he started screaming for his brothers to come and help me. After they offered me first aid, we heard my ten-year-old granddaughter, Reema, crying, and that is when we noticed that she had also been wounded, in her leg.”
An ambulance arrived after a while, and Haniya and her granddaughter were taken to Al Aqsa Martyrs hospital. Their wounds were moderate and they were discharged soon after.
Until now, Haniya and her family have unanswered questions with regard to the attack. They do not know what the exact target was: “All of us were terrified, because the missiles were launched about 100m from where we live. Other people in the neighborhood also got injured by the shrapnel from the missiles. Some windows were smashed and there is clear damage to some of the asbestos roofs. In this area, there have been no incidents since Cast Lead. Nobody really knows why they launched missiles on an empty piece of land, and so close to where people live.”
Since the attack, Haniya’s family has been living in constant fear of further attack. This has had a particularly negative impact on the children: “The attack has really frightened the children. They used to go out after dark to play or to visit relatives who live in neighboring houses. Now, they do not even step outside after darkness falls because they are too scared. They are not the only ones who are scared. Even we, the adults, feel the same way. At the same time, we know that there is nothing we can say against the Israeli occupation. We cannot do anything about it either.”
Haniya’s son, Mohammed (32), hopes to see an end to the attacks on unarmed civilians and calls for the respect of everyone’s rights. “I just want to see the situation change and an end to the Israeli occupation. We are unarmed civilians, yet they follow us and continue to attack and terrorize us in our homes. They hurt my mother and my daughter, yet they had not even done anything. We have not caused problems for anyone and the only thing we demand is our rights, our land and our freedom. We are peaceful people and we want it to remain that way. After all these years of being attacked, we will not stop demanding our rights. Even if they kill all of us and only 10 people remain, we will still demand for those rights.”
The direct targeting of a civilian object constitutes a war crime, as codified in Article 8(2) (b) (ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Similarly, under Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the destruction of private property is prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. Intentionally launching an indiscriminate attack constitutes a war crime as defined in Article 8 (2) (b) of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Furthermore, according to the principle of proportionality, which is codified in Article 51 (5) (b) of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions, an attack that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof is considered excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
- Occupied Lives: I have no future (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- OCHA: Israeli occupation destroys 13 houses weekly in West Bank (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- PCHR Weekly Report: 2 Palestinians executed; 3 wounded by Israeli forces this week (imemc.org)
- Occupied Lives: Nothing Left To Hope For (imemc.org)
GAZA — The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented thirteen violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip perpetrated by the Israeli navy forces, during the past two months.
PCHR documented the Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen during the reporting period 26 July to 01 August 2012 including 10 incidents in which the IOF fired at fishermen.
The center also confirmed the arrest of two fishermen by the Israeli forces while fishing at a distance of 300 meters from Gaza port.
The center considered the Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip as a flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, especially the right to life and security of the person, in accordance with Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the State of Israel is a party.
The IOF perpetrated violations against Palestinian fishermen in the sea, when these fishermen did not pose any threat to Israeli naval troops. The fishermen were practicing their right to work and seek their livelihood within the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip when the IOF indiscriminately fired at them.
During the reporting period, PCHR documented 11 cases in which the IOF fired at Palestinian fishermen in the sea off the Gaza shore, and the arrest of 2 Palestinian fishermen, including a 16-year-old boy
These attacks took place within the 3 nautical miles allowed for fishermen to sail and fish in. PCHR also noticed that these firing incidents against fishermen and their boats took place in the context of seeking their livelihood, and the imposition of more restrictions to terrify and prevent the fishermen from practicing their work freely.
The report pointed out that Israeli gunboats fired on August 28 Palestinian fishing boats in front of the coast of northern Gaza Strip, causing damage to Palestinian boat, an issue that pushed the fishermen to go back to the shore.
Despite the fact that the fishermen were trying to steer their boats back to the shore, the Navy boats continued to target them.
- Israeli Navy Chases Fishing Boats, Tries To Sink Them (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- IOF gunfire targets fishermen and farmers in Gaza (altahrir.wordpress.com)
A Palestinian cameraman from the Gaza Strip managed to capture on tape, an attack carried out by Israeli Navi boats, on Wednesday, against small Palestinian fishing boats. The video shows the Israeli Navy boats encircling the boats flooding them with water, and even blocking their way as they tried to sail back to the shore.
The video was captured by Mohammad Al-Mash-harawy, of the Media Town News Agency in Gaza, during a field report documenting the ongoing Israeli assaults against Palestinian fishermen in the coastal region.
The Navy boats were sailing at fast speeds, and encircling the Palestinian fishing boats, and flooding them with water, an issue that pushed the fishermen to go back to the shore.
Despite the fact that the fishermen were trying to steer their boats back to the shore, the Navy boats continue to encircle them.
In related news, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that, on Tuesday morning, 28 August 2012, two Palestinian fishermen were kidnapped and a Palestinian fishing boat was heavily damaged in two separate attacks carried out by the Israeli Navy in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Since 2000, fishermen have been denied their right to sail and fish and have been subject to frequent attacks that led to excessive damage and dozens of casualties.
Israel reduced the area of fishing from 20 nautical miles, which was established upon in the agreements signed between Palestinian and Israel, to 6 nautical miles in 2008.
“However, Israeli forces have continued to prevent fishermen from going beyond 3 nautical miles since 2009. As a result, fishermen are prevented from reaching areas beyond that distance where fish are abundant. Sometimes, Israeli forces also chased fishermen within the 3 nautical mile area. Consequently, Palestinian fishermen have lost 85% of their income, because of limiting the fishing area”, the PCHR reported.
- New Videos: Vancouver Delegation to Gaza Reportback + Palestinian Fishers Under Attack in Gaza (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
- IOF gunfire targets fishermen and farmers in Gaza (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Ahmad Dalloul in front of his destroyed factory in Tel-el-hawa
Mamoun Ahmad Dalloul (36) lives in Tel-el-hawa with his wife and 9 children. Until recently, he owned a dairy-products factory that produced milk, cheese and yoghurt. Since December 2008, Mamoun has re-built his factory 4 times after it was repeatedly targeted and destroyed by Israel’s forces. On 04 June 2012, at around 1:00, his factory was targeted and destroyed by Israel’s forces for the 5th time.
On the evening of the most recent attack, Mamoun received a call from his brother, who lives adjacent to the factory, informing him that the factory had been destroyed by a missile from an F16: “I rushed to my factory and, when I arrived, there were firefighters and police. The neighbors were panicking and standing in the streets. I was told that a missile had hit the factory and then penetrated 6 or 7 meters into the ground. There was something like an earthquake for 5 minutes, and then the missile exploded and pulled everything into the crater. I do not know what kind of missile it was.”
After 5 attacks on his factory, Mamoun is devastated: “The first time my factory was destroyed was in December 2008 during Operation Cast Lead. The factory was very big and on the ground floor of our residential apartment. I received a call from Israel’s forces, who told me that the building would be targeted in the next 15 minutes. My family and I fled immediately. 3 missiles were fired from an F16 and the building was completely destroyed. In just a few minutes, we lost everything. We were suddenly homeless and I had lost my only source of a livelihood.”
Mamoun and his family were forced to shuffle from one household to another, looking for a place to stay: “We would stay at my parents’ house for a few days then move to my brother-in-law’s house and spend a few more at my brother’s house. My son kept asking why we had no home. Finally, as my wife is a refugee, UNRWA built us a single residential unit. I then rebuilt my factory in Sabra, which is in central Gaza City. It was very small and modest because there was barely any construction material in Gaza, as well as money constraints. 6 months later, it was destroyed by Israel’s forces. I then partnered with someone else and tried to rebuild in a different location, but it was destroyed while we were still constructing.”
A crater made by the missile fired from an F16 on 04 June 2012
At this point, Mamoun had given up and decided to not rebuild his factory: “The first 2 times, I rebuilt because this is my only source of a livelihood. There are hardly any employment opportunities in Gaza. My factory provided work for 120 individuals, including my 3 brothers and my son. I saw how they were all suffering without work and thought that the factory would at least provide them with the income to support themselves and their families. I had enough after the 3rd attack, but a representative of the European Commission came to visit from Jerusalem and said they would mediate on my behalf. They promised that the factory would not be targeted again. Each time I bought new machines, they came and took pictures and reassured me all was well. I was encouraged by this and started to develop the factory slowly. Then, just like that, it was targeted and destroyed again. They did not keep their promise.”
Each attack has resulted in severe economic hardship for Mamoun and his family: “I have had to borrow money and my savings are almost depleted. I sold 2 pieces of my land to rebuild my factory. I even sold the house that UNRWA gave us to set up the factory and have a source of income. I can no longer sustain the expenses for my family. For a while, people would not even let me rent an apartment in their buildings, because they thought it would be targeted.”
Mamoun feels that his story is one of many that illustrate the suffering of Gaza: “There are people who are displaced and dying. I know what it feels like to be homeless. My children have had to grow up seeing dead people, war and destruction. They no longer even react to airstrikes, because this is what they are used to. My factory was a civilian establishment and I did not plan any resistance activities there. Why would I want to put my family in such danger? I am tired of this destruction. I have no future now. Why can’t we be left to live in peace and stability like other people in the world?”
The direct targeting of a civilian object constitutes a war crime, as codified in Article 8(2)(b)(ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Similarly, under the Fourth Geneva Convention Article 53, the destruction of private property is prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. The destruction of such factories infringes upon human rights principles, including the right to work and right to attain an adequate standard of living contained in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
- Owner of dairy factory hit by Israel urges world action (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Destroys EU Development Projects Worth €29 Million (altahrir.wordpress.com)