Israel is killing women and children in Gaza

Palestinians inspect an area destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza (Ashraf Amra - APA Images)

Maureen Clare Murphy

The Electronic Intifada  /  May 14, 2021

Women and children account for nearly half of the more than 120 Palestinians killed in Gaza since Monday, according to Al-Mezan, a human rights group in the territory.

This contradicts Israel’s claims that it is targeting Hamas infrastructure and making great efforts to avoid harming civilians.

The death toll will likely climb higher as bodies are recovered from the rubble of the buildings that were “destroyed over their residents’ heads,” the rights group stated on Friday.

Al-Mezan and the London-based Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights said on Friday that like it did in 2014, Israel was targeting family homes, resulting in civilian casualties.

“Whole residential apartment blocks and individual homes are again being targeted pursuant to an apparent policy agreed [to] by Israel’s military and political leadership,” the groups added, calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate those responsible.

Al-Mezan notes that in some cases, Palestinians received no notice from Israel before their homes were targeted.

The rights group said that a home in Rafah, southern Gaza, was bombed without warning on Thursday, killing 2-year-old Ibrahim al-Rantisi, his grandmother Siham Azara as well as his uncle Raed Azara and aunt Shaima Musa.

Israel says it warns residents to evacuate their homes before bombing them, though a warning call is not an exemption from international law prohibitions against targeting civilian infrastructure.

Some 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced from their homes as a result of Israel’s offensive, according to the United Nations.

“They are sheltering in schools, mosques and other places during a global COVID-19 pandemic with limited access to water, food, hygiene and health services,” UN humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings said on Friday.

“Hospitals and access to water and sanitation services depend on electricity, the fuel for which will run out on Sunday,” Hastings added.

Civilian infrastructure targeted

Israel has destroyed 35 residential buildings including three towers containing more than 160 housing units, according to Al-Mezan, which said those figures are expected to rise.

Government buildings, banks, schools and mosques have also been damaged, as have electricity and water infrastructure as well as roads.

At least 600 Palestinians in Gaza have been injured, among them around 130 children, since Monday.

Israel intensively attacked northern Gaza on Thursday night, firing 450 bombs during a period of 40 minutes, Al-Mezan said.

The group noted that Israel targeted a civilian area in one of the most densely populated places on the planet. With Gaza under a comprehensive blockade, “there is no safe haven” in times of danger, and thus Israel “sought to inflict the greatest amount of losses on civilians and their property.”

Al-Mezan called for immediate international pressure on Israel to end its killing and destruction and to hold to account the perpetrators of the violence and those who ordered it.

The lack of accountability following Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014 has emboldened Israel’s military and political leadership “to continue as before,” Al-Mezan and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights said.

More than 1,000 Palestinians, including 370 children, were killed in the sanctity of their homes during that 51-day offensive, according to the groups. “More than 100,000 Palestinians were made homeless,” they added.

A UN commission of inquiry into Israel’s use of force in Gaza in 2014 found evidence of massive and systematic war crimes.

Those suspected war crimes are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court.

US President Joe Biden gave his implicit approval for the targeting of residential buildings shortly before the intensive bombing of northern Gaza on Thursday, telling reporters that he had not seen a “significant overreaction” from Israel.

The US provides $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel each year. American weaponry is confirmed to have been used in the deaths of two Palestinian child victims in Gaza this week.

Defense for Children International Palestine said that a US-sourced Israeli Apache attack helicopter killed Hamada Attia Abed al-Amour, 13, and his 10-year-old cousin, Ammar Tayseer Muhammad al-Amour.

The pair were with another young relative when the attack helicopter “fired two thermal flares and then a missile in the direction of the children” in al-Fukharia village east of Khan Younis on Wednesday.

The surviving child was critically injured.

“At the time of the missile attack,” the street on which the children were walking “was open and completely quiet,” Defense for Children International Palestine said.

Al-Mezan noted that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, “urged his soldiers not to fear investigation committees or accountability.”

“We hear talk of apprehension over [future] commissions of inquiry, investigations, inspections – we will give you all the tools to protect yourself and the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu told Border Police soldiers deployed to quell rioting in Israeli cities on Thursday.

Violent mobs have been attacking Palestinians and their property in Israeli cities, eliciting comparisons to the Kristallnacht pogrom in Nazi Germany and the violent ethnic cleansing in Palestine around the time of Israel’s founding in 1948.

On Thursday, Netanyahu said that “we are dealing with a campaign on two fronts” – both in Gaza and in “Israel’s cities.”

“We give 100 percent backing to the police, to the soldiers of the Border Police and the other security forces,” Netanyahu said of the effort to “restore law and order to Israel’s cities.”

A state of emergency was declared in Lydd, a city in Israel where violence broke out after a Jewish vigilante killed a Palestinian resident during rioting on Monday night.

Despite the emergency declaration, “armed West Bank settlers and Jewish right-wingers entered the city and began patrolling the streets while attacking Arab residents with rocks” on Wednesday. Police stood by and did little to intervene, Oren Ziv reported for +972 Magazine, much like how the army protects settlers who attack Palestinians in the West Bank.

Similar scenes have played out in various other cities in Israel in recent days, making plainly visible the state’s continuity of oppression from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

On Friday, Israeli forces disguised as civilians reportedly used live fire in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in Jerusalem where Palestinian families face imminent eviction to make way for Jewish settlers.

West Bank protesters killed

Israeli occupation forces killed at least 10 Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday as protests were held in more than 200 locations across the territory.

Meanwhile, a Lebanese man was killed by Israeli forces as he and others tried to cross over the border on Friday in solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli fire.

Hundreds of protesters in Jordan attempted to cross into the West Bank on Friday but were turned away by Jordanian riot police.

The escalating situation throughout historic Palestine was hurtled into motion after Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa mosque while it was full of Ramadan worshippers on Monday, injuring hundreds.

The military wing of Hamas demanded that Israel withdraw its forces from al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah, and free detainees. When its deadline passed on Monday evening, resistance groups fired volleys of rockets towards Jerusalem for the first time since the summer 2014 war.

Since Monday, more than 2,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza, killing eight people in Israel, including an on-duty soldier and two children.

Reuters reported that Egypt was “leading regional efforts to secure a ceasefire” and pushing Israel and Hamas “to cease fire from midnight on Friday pending further negotiations.”

The Eid al-Fitr holiday that falls at the end of Ramadan began on Thursday.

The UN secretary-general urged a ceasefire “out of respect for the spirit of Eid.”

On Saturday, Palestinians mark Nakba Day, the annual commemoration the ethnic cleansing of their homeland before, during and after the declaration of the state of Israel in May 1948.

In 2014, some 60 Palestinians were massacred by Israeli snipers in Gaza while protesting in support of their right to return to the lands from which their families were expelled.

Two-thirds of Gaza’s population of two million are refugees. Israel denies them from exercising their right to return, enshrined in international law, because they are not Jews.

“Jewish supremacy” – in the words of the human rights group B’Tselem – is Israel’s “single organizing principle.”

The West Bank-based human rights group Al-Haq said that the “international community must address” the root causes of “colonialism, apartheid and de facto annexation” leading to the killing of more than 120 in Gaza and scores of injuries throughout Palestine in “an Eid of Israeli terror.”

Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago