Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Israeli kills another 10, including 6 children, death toll today 22, total 220

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli raids on Gaza on Wednesday afternoon killed nine Palestinians, including six children, bringing the total number of Palestinians slain in nine days of Israeli assault to 220.

Four children were killed when Israeli forces shelled a beach they were playing on in Gaza City on Wednesday, medics said, in an incident witnessed by AFP journalists.

All four were on the beach when the attack took place, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said, with several injured children taking refuge at a nearby hotel where journalists were staying.

They were reportedly attacked by Israeli naval boats, witnesses told Ma'an, and were members of the same family. more

Witness to a shelling: first-hand account of deadly strike on Gaza port

From the Guardian - The retaining wall of Gaza's harbour sticks out into the Mediterranean about 100 metres from the terrace of al-Deira hotel, base to many of the journalists covering the conflict in Gaza. The first of the artillery shells came in a little after 4pm on Wednesday as I was writing on the hotel's terrace.

There is a deafening explosion as it hits a structure on the pier, a place we have seen hit before, where fishermen usually store their nets. Behind the smoke, I see four figures running, silhouettes whose legs are pumping raggedly. They clear the smoke. From their size it is clear they are a man and three young boys.

Where the harbour wall ends and the beach starts, there are a few brightly coloured tents and chairs for beach users in more peaceful times. The four figures jump on to the beach and begin running towards us and the safety of the hotel.

Only afterwards do we discover there are four others who are dead, all children, lying on the wall. I am shown a picture of one of the dead boys, his skin scorched and bruised. Their names are released later: Ahed Bakr, aged 10; Zakaria, 10; and two other boys from the Bakr family, both named Mohammad, aged 11 and nine. more

Israel raid in Gaza City kills 4 children

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Four children were killed in Gaza City on Wednesday, medics said, in Israeli shelling witnessed by AFP journalists.

All four were on the beach when the attack took place, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said, with several injured children taking refuge at a nearby hotel where journalists were staying.

They were reportedly attacked by Israeli naval boats, witnesses told Ma'an, and were members of the same family.

The latest attack brings the Palestinian death toll since midnight to 13, with over 200 killed since Israel's assault began last week.

A Gaza-based rights group says over 80 percent of the victims are civilians. more

Gaza hospital defies Israel evacuation warning amid fears for frail patients

It was a heart-wrenching scene of defiance and pathos. As 16 mostly elderly and terminally ill patients lay stricken in their hospital beds, Dr Basman Alashi vowed that he would never leave them, regardless of the physical dangers and an Israeli warning that the surrounding neighbourhood must be evacuated.

Dr Alashi, executive director of Wafa Hospital in Gaza’s Shujaiyya district, judged that the patients – most of whom are receiving rehabilitation treatment – were too ill to be moved.

When an Israeli military officer called the hospital late on Tuesday warning that it must be evacuated by 8am the following morning, he called in the World Health Organisation (WHO), arguing that such a move would risk the lives of patients.

The WHO – the United Nations’ health body – responded by communicating his concerns to Israeli military authorities. On Wednesday, while many inhabitants of Gaza’s Shujaiyya, Zeitoun and Beit Lahiya were on the move in response to Israeli bombardment warnings – relayed by recorded phone message and mass leaflet drops – Dr Alashi, 16 medical staff members and the same number of patients stayed behind. They were joined by eight foreign activists, including one Briton, who have volunteered to act as human shields at the hospital. more

Netanyahu government in disarray as right demands invasion

Binyamin Netanyahu's cabinet was in disarray as the Israeli prime minister came under fire from several of his most senior ministers for his handling of the crisis in Gaza.

The storm of public criticism from his own ranks resulted in the sacking on Tuesday night of the deputy defence minister, Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu's own Likud party.

Danon told media on Tuesday that Hamas had humiliated Israel by setting conditions for peace, after Netanyahu said he was willing to accept the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Hamas claimed that it had not been consulted over the ceasefire conditions and rejected it.

"At a time when … Israel and the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] are in the midst of a military campaign against the terrorist organizations and taking determined action to maintain the security of Israel's citizens, it cannot be that the deputy defence minister will sharply attack the leadership of the country regarding the campaign," Netanyahu said in a statement on Tuesday.

"These sharp remarks on the deputy defence minister's part are irresponsible, especially given his position. They also serve the Hamas terrorist organisation as a tool to attack the government with."

The divisions within the Israeli cabinet have been mocked by Hamas, with spokesman Fauzi Barhoum calling the Danon sacking a "victory for the resistance".

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's hawkish foreign minister, split his Yisrael Beiteinu party from Likud – dismantling a critical alliance for Netanyahu – having accused the prime minister of hesitation over a ground invasion of Gaza.

Lieberman also criticised the government for accepting an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on Tuesday and called for an IDF ground assault and occupation of the Gaza Strip, arguing that a ceasefire would allow Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups to replenish their stock of weapons. more

B'Tselem: 52 Palestinians killed in unlawful bombings of homes in Gaza Strip

According to B'Tselem's initial findings, from the start of Operation Protective Shield there were ten incidents in which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were killed when the Israeli military bombed homes. 52 people were killed in these incidents, of them 19 minors and 12 women. An additional incident, in which six members of the same family were killed was defined by the military as a targeted killing, and was therefore not included in this figure.

Official spokespeople state that it is enough for a person to be involved in military activity to render his home (and his neighbors' homes) legitimate military targets, without having to prove any connection between his activity and the house in which he and his family live. This interpretation is unfounded and illegal. It is not a coincidence that the number of uninvolved civilians killed or injured by these bombings is growing. The law is meant to protect civilians and, unsurprisingly, violating it has lethal consequences. Euphemisms such as "surgical strikes" or "operational infrastructure" cannot hide the facts: illegal attacks of homes, which constitute punitive home demolition from the air, come at a dreadful cost in human life.

Detailed discussion:

Is it legal for the military to bomb the homes of Hamas operatives?

From 8 July 2014, when the military launched Operation Protective Shield, to early Sunday 13 July, the military bombed dozens of houses in the Gaza Strip, according to media reports and statements by the IDF Spokesperson. According to the latter, these bombings are legal because the private homes of Hamas activists are "a legitimate military objective". Is that true?

What does the law say?

International humanitarian law defines a military target as follows:

"[…] military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage." (Article 52 (2), Protocol I Additional to the Fourth Geneva Convention)

The official interpretation of the International Committee of the Red Cross makes it clear that objectives which, by their nature, make an effective contribution to hostile military action – such as weapon storage, military bases and communication centers used by the military – are considered military targets. Questions may arise regarding civilian sites, which may also serve military needs. For example, schools and hotels are, by definition, civilian sites, but if armed forces stay in them or use them as headquarters, they become legitimate military targets.

As full information is not always available prior to the attack, the law emphasizes that if any doubt arises as to the use of a civilian site and its effective contribution to hostile military actions, it must be considered civilian.

Another prerequisite for a legitimate objective is that attacking it must provide a definite military advantage.

What does the IDF Spokesperson say?

In an official blog, the IDF Spokesperson explained the reasoning behind the military's view that these bombings are legal. According to the military, Hamas operates within the civilian population in Gaza and often uses the homes of its activists for military purposes. For instance, the homes can be used for weapon storage, as command and control centers, or for establishing a communications center. When used in this way, they become legitimate objectives under international law. To decide whether a target is a military objective or not, the military has stated that it uses "advanced methods" – including intelligence, legal advice, and the longstanding experience of officers in the field.

Over the course of the current operation, the IDF Spokesperson changed the wording of statements concerning these bombings, apparently in an attempt to retroactively match his reports of reality to the requirements of the law. The first statement (8 July) reported that "among the targets attacked were four homes of activists in the Hamas terror organization who are involved in terrorist activity and direct and carry out high-trajectory fire towards Israel…”. The next day, another statement was issued reporting that the military had attacked additional homes of Hamas activists "which functioned as command and control infrastructure for the organization” or as "a control center for advancing terrorism". The same evening, the IDF Spokesperson stopped reporting that homes were destroyed, stating instead that "the operational infrastructure of a senior Hamas functionary was attacked".

There is a vast gap between the military's carefully-worded legal interpretations (in various versions) and its statements on specific cases of homes bombed. Only in one case did the IDF Spokesperson claim that weapons were hidden in the house and published video footage of the bombing, which shows secondary explosions of concealed ammunition. In all other statements, the military described the homeowner's involvement in hostile activity against Israel. Mentions of such activity included activity during the two previous military operations in Gaza – Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defense – as well as involvement in harming soldiers, in current or past firing of rockets, or a general description of "taking part in terror activity against the State of Israel".

So, is it legal?

No. more

Protesters chase Palestinian health minister out of Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinian health minister Jawad Awad cancelled a trip to Gaza City's Shifa hospital on Tuesday after being confronted by angry protesters as he arrived from Egypt, officials said.

Witnesses said protesters threw shoes and eggs at Awad's car as he entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

Officials said he left the Palestinian territory shortly afterwards.

Protesters also gathered at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, carrying posters criticizing Awad and the recently formed government of technocrats to which he belongs.

The government was sworn in on June 2 following a unity deal between the Hamas movement and president Mahmoud Abbas which ended seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Gaza has been bombed, and Gaza has been destroyed, and now he comes to visit?" protester Ahmed Murtaja said incredulously.

"We don't want this visit and all the Palestinian people are opposed to it and reject it," he told AFP. more

9th day: Seven Palestinians killed in Gaza, death toll climbs to 205

Palestinian medical sources reported, on Wednesday, that seven Palestinians have been killed, and several others have been injured, in Israeli strikes targeting different parts of the Gaza Strip. The sources said resident Farid Mahmoud Abu Doqqa, 33, was killed after the army bombarded Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported that another Palestinian, identified as Mohammad Taiseer Abu Sharab, 23, was also killed in another strike in Khan Younis, while a number of residents were wounded.

The Ministry added that resident Mohammad Sabri Debari, 20, was killed in an Israeli air strike targeting Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip; several Palestinians have been injured.

Another Palestinian, identified as Ashraf Khalil Abu Shanab, 33, was killed in another Israeli air strike targeting an area in Rafah.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza also reported that resident Ahmad Adel Nawajha, 23, died of wounds suffered Tuesday when the army fired a missile into a car east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

In addition, Israeli missiles have also killed residents Mohammad Abdullah Zahouq, 23, Mohammad Ismael Abu Odah, 27, have been killed by an Israeli missile targeting the Abu Odah family home, west of Rafah. more