Maureen Clare Murphy
The Electronic Intifada / May 19, 2021
Israeli warplanes and artillery attacks killed several more Palestinians in Gaza and destroyed more than a dozen residential buildings late Tuesday and Wednesday.
A journalist, child and woman were among those who died as a result of Israeli strikes, according to Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza.
The slain journalist, Yousif Abu Hussein, may have been deliberately targeted, an international press safety watchdog suggested.
At least 227 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since Israel’s bombardment began on 10 May, according to the health ministry in the territory.
The UN’s human rights office has confirmed that 121 of those killed in Gaza were civilians.
At least 208 people, including 60 children, “were seemingly killed by Israeli forces,” according to the UN.
Some 75,000 have been displaced from their homes, including 47,000 seeking protection at UN-flagged schools. The remainder are staying with host families, according to the UN monitoring group OCHA.
The current crisis was set off after Israeli police attacked Ramadan worshippers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, injuring hundreds, last Monday. Hamas responded to the assault by firing rockets towards Israel.
The al-Aqsa provocation came after weeks of restrictions on Palestinian assembly in Jerusalem and imminent forced evictions in the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Among those killed in Gaza are 63 children and 36 women, accounting for nearly half of the fatalities.
Twelve people in Israel – including three foreign workers, a soldier and two children – have been killed by projectiles fired from Gaza since 10 May.
Israeli forces killed around 25 Palestinians in the West Bank during the same period, including four children.
Muhammad Kiwan, a 17-year-old Palestinian from Umm al-Fahm, a city in Israel, died on Wednesday from his injuries after he was shot in the head by police earlier in the week.
His death brings to two the number of Palestinians in Israel killed in the context of upheaval as ultranationalist Israeli mobs have attacked Palestinians with the apparent knowledge and collusion of Israeli officials.
An Israeli Jewish man was also fatally injured during unrest in Lydd, a city in Israel where a Palestinian man was killed by a Jewish vigilante last week.
Meanwhile, four rockets were fired from Lebanon towards Israel on Wednesday, in the third such incident during the latest crisis. None of the rockets fired from Lebanon have caused injuries or damage, according to Israeli media.
Israel may have deliberately killed a journalist while he was in his Gaza home early Wednesday.
Yousif Abu Hussein, 32, died in an Israeli air raid in the Sheikh Ridwan neighborhood of Gaza City early Wednesday. Abu Hussein was a journalist with Voice of Al-Aqsa, a radio station affiliated with Hamas.
Israel bombed the top floors of the apartment building where Abu Hussein lived days after destroying a building that housed several media outlets, including Voice of Al-Aqsa. The station continued broadcasting after that attack.
The Committee to Protect Journalists raised the possibility that “Yousif Abu Hussein was targeted in his home because of his work.”
A spokesperson for the press safety watchdog said that “Israeli authorities must explain why they bombed the home of a journalist, a civilian who was protected under international law.”
The watchdog added that “Abu Hussein’s recent work for Voice of Al-Aqsa included presenting news bulletins and interviewing the spokesperson for the Gaza Judicial Authority and the director of the traffic police.”
His last post on Facebook showed photos of “destruction from Israeli airstrikes and efforts to rescue people from under rubble,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Before the strike that killed Abu Hussein, Reporters Without Borders asked the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s airstrikes targeting 20 media outlets in Gaza.
The court announced that it had launched a formal investigation into international crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip earlier this year.
The UN’s human rights office said that the incident in which Abu Hussein was killed raises concerns over Israel’s conduct.
“Targeting civilian objects, including governmental buildings, homes and civilian infrastructure is absolutely prohibited in any circumstances,” OCHA, the UN group, stated.
“Attacks against military objects expected to cause a disproportionate harm to civilians or civilian objects are also forbidden.”
Fourteen families killed
“At least 14 families in Gaza have lost three or more family members in the same incident, for a total of 66 fatalities,” OCHA said on Wednesday.
The Sharir family is one such case.
Mina Iyad Fathi Sharir, 2, died on Wednesday from wounds she sustained when her family’s home was attacked last week, according to Al Mezan.
Three other members of the same family were killed when their home was struck by two missiles fired by an Israeli warplane in Gaza City’s Al-Manara neighborhood, according to Defense for Children International Palestine.
“The attack killed 15-year-old Lina Iyad Fathi Sharir and both of her parents,” the rights group said.
The Israeli journalist Amira Hass observed that such incidents are “not mistakes” and that “the bombing of a house while all its residents are in it follows a decision from higher up, backed by the examination and approval of military jurists.”
In some cases, though certainly not all, Israel warns someone living in a residential building before it is targeted and destroyed.
The fact that Israeli authorities warn some residents before a strike “shows that the Israeli authorities have current phone numbers for people in each structure slated for destruction,” Hass writes.
“The Palestinian population registry, including that of Gaza, is in the hands of the Israeli Interior Ministry. It includes details such as names, ages, relatives and addresses,” she adds.
“The army knows the number and names of children, women and elderly who live in every residential building it bombs for any reason.”
In Gaza, the high civilian toll is in all certainty Israel’s aim, rather than an unintended consequence.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he was making an example of Gaza.
“I am certain that all of our enemies around us see the price we are exacting for the aggression against us,” he said while standing in front of an F-16 fighter jet in a prerecorded video.
That price is being paid by every Palestinian in Gaza, with widespread destruction of residential buildings, essential infrastructure and agricultural land.
“In addition, hundreds of private properties, as well as tens of governmental sites, schools, banks and mosques have sustained significant damages,” according to Al Mezan.
“Israel’s airstrikes have also led to the large-scale destruction of power and water networks, as well as thousands of square meters of vital paved roads.”
Meanwhile, Israel has closed Erez checkpoint, depriving patients in Gaza from accessing urgently needed medical treatment not available in the territory.
The healthcare system in Gaza is on the verge of collapse after 14 years of Israeli siege and repeated military attacks, groups warn.
Urgent calls for humanitarian corridor
Israel has failed to ensure the flow of aid into Gaza, as well as vital supplies such as medicine and fuel, Al Mezan said.
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, called on Israel to allow humanitarian staff and supplies into Gaza.
Matthias Schmale, the agency’s director in Gaza, said on Wednesday that “it’s vital that a humanitarian corridor is established.” Otherwise, fuel, medical supplies and food “will eventually run out.”
That same day, Israel halted the transfer of aid, claiming that Hamas had fired at a convoy attempting to bring relief to Gaza for the second consecutive day.
Israel may be using the alleged Hamas fire as a pretext to continue delaying the delivery of urgently needed aid.
“The UN is frustrated with the Israelis. The Israelis are simply not opening the border because they say the barrier isn’t secure and they can’t secure that convoy into the Gaza Strip,” according to Al-Jazeera reporter Imran Khan.
Israel targets medical facilities
Israel is blaming Hamas for disrupting the delivery of aid while its airstrikes target health infrastructure across Gaza.
Al Mezan said that these attacks have severely damaged 22 facilities, “causing injury to medical workers, destroying main roads and impeding the movement of medical crews and ambulances attending to the injured.”
The deficit in power supply, exacerbated after Israel targeted main electricity lines, has prevented the delivery of basic services. One of Gaza’s hospitals has not been able to function for four consecutive days due to lack of electricity.
Hospitals are currently relying on generators, but that backup system is also about to fail as Israel continues to prevent fuel delivery to Gaza.
“The situation would become grave if Israel made good on its threat to completely cut all power to the Strip,” Al Mezan said.
The US blocked a UN Security Council statement on the violence in Gaza for a fourth time on Wednesday, claiming that such an intervention wouldn’t be helpful.
Netanyahu said he was “determined” to keep attacking despite a call from US President Joe Biden for a de-escalation of violence in Gaza.
Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago