Geneva – Israel’s escalation of violence and widespread bombardment, including civilian objects without respecting the principle of proportionality, in the Gaza Strip is utterly appalling, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said today in a statement.
Since the Israeli Army launched its military operation “Guardian of the Walls”, fears have significantly risen regarding Israel’s intent to not only continue their attacks but to further escalate and expand its target range, according to the recommendations of the Israeli Chief of the General Staff, General Aviv Kochavi.
Israeli warplanes have been bombing dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip since Monday evening after Palestinian armed factions fired several rockets at Israel and the occupied territories. This came as a response to the Israeli forces' attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem, especially those praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
However, the Israeli forces expanded their response to include targeting dozens of civilian objects, women and children and bombing densely populated gatherings, which according to the Rome Statute, is a war crime.
Israel has been targeting civilian objects in the Gaza Strip in a manner that exceeds military necessities. In one of the targeted houses, an elderly woman Amira Abdel Fattah Subuh, 58, was killed. Her son, Abd al-Rahman Yusef Subuh, 19, a disabled young man who suffers from cerebral palsy since birth, was also killed.
Later, the Israeli army announced that it had targeted the home of a battalion commander. But field investigations confirm that no one was in the targeted flat during the bombing. The bombing caused the ceiling of the lower apartment to fall, which killed the two citizens and wounded some others.
This incident is an example of Israel’s bombing policy that does not consider the principle of proportionality. Israel targets civilian objects deliberately to inflict damage upon victims and leave them with material losses as a form of revenge and collective punishment, prohibited by the rules of international humanitarian law.
Israel might return to this policy of deliberately targeting civilian homes, which has happened in previous attacks, where hundreds of homes were destroyed, including entire residential towers, many of them targeted during the presence of the civilian population in them.
Israel expanded its bombardment range today and targeted economic facilities such as an ice cream factory in the east of Gaza and educational institutions such as the Al-Salah school in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, up until the statement was published, the airstrikes had killed 26 Palestinians, including nine children, and injured 122 others.
This attack requires urgent action from the international community to bind Israel to the rules of international humanitarian law. At the same time, the International Criminal Court should include these violations in its investigation of possible crimes in the Palestinian territories.
Article 25 of the Hague Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land says: “The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited. Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates that “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property […] is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”.
Destruction of property for no clear military justifications is a grave breach of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime under the Statute of the International Criminal Court Article 8 (2) (b) (2).
Anas Aljarjawi, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Operations Officer, said that “even if there was a military necessity, it is the responsibility of the occupying power to comply with the other provisions stipulated by international humanitarian law”.
“International humanitarian law provides for the prohibition of property damage as a 'preventive measure' – that is, in cases where the danger has not yet been verified. It also prohibits the destruction of property in order to achieve deterrence, spread terror among civilians, or take revenge”.
“Israel's targeted demolition of civilian homes is merely a form of collective punishment for residents in the Gaza Strip. Itis a violation of international humanitarian law, especially Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or terrorism is prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property is prohibited’.”