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News code: 28992
Published Date: Tuesday 4 February 2020 - 10:07:24
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HRW: Unlawful Israeli strikes kill at least 11 civilians in Gaza

HRW: Unlawful Israeli strikes kill at least 11 civilians in Gaza
World  - Two Israeli airstrikes in Gaza during a flare-up in fighting with Palestinian armed groups in November 2019 killed at least 11 civilians, in apparent violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today.

The two Israeli airstrikes that Human Rights Watch investigated appear to have violated the laws of war because they struck civilian objects with little or no evidence that the attackers took all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize loss of civilian life. The first killed three people at a location where there appeared to be no combatants, weapons, or other military target. The second killed nine people in two homes, at least eight of them civilians. Human Rights Watch interviewed 17 Palestinians in Gaza about the two incidents, including survivors as well as witnesses, relatives and neighbors of those killed and first responders. Human Rights Watch visited the sites of both strikes and reviewed statements by Israeli officials, the Health Ministry in Gaza, and Palestinian armed groups.

The first of the two attacks occurred at about 9 a.m. on November 13. A guided missile killed Rafat Ayyad, 54, and two of his sons, aged 7 and 23, as they rode a motorcycle in the al-Zeitoun neighborhood, two kilometers east of Gaza City. Three relatives and neighbors who visited the scene just after the attack told Human Rights Watch that they heard the buzz of drones overhead immediately before the strike.

Interviewed separately, they all said that neither Rafat nor his eldest son has ties to any armed group. None of Gaza's armed groups referred to them as militants on their websites or claimed them as a "martyrs," a standard practice when militants are killed. Human Rights Watch found no other evidence that Rafat or his eldest son were combatants. Israeli military authorities have not commented publicly on the attack.

The second strike occurred at about 12:15 a.m. on November 14. Paramedics, neighbors, relatives, and survivors said that three airdropped munitions fell within about two minutes on adjacent homes of the families of two brothers, Rasmi Abu Malhouse al-Sawarka and Mohammad al-Sawarka, on the edge of Deir al-Balah town in the central Gaza Strip. The strikes killed the two brothers, two women, and five boys aged 1, 2, 7, 12, and 13, and injured a woman and nine other children.

The day of the attack, the Israeli military released a photo of two men, saying that an attack earlier in the day had killed a man called Rasmi Abu Malhous, and that he was a senior Islamic Jihad commander. Just after the attack, Islamic Jihad said that one of the men in the photo was one of their commanders, but that he was alive. Survivors of the attack said they did not know the men in the photo.

Under the laws of war, warring parties may target only combatants and military objectives. If a civilian object or structure is being used for military purposes, it can be targeted only while it makes an effective contribution to military action. Parties to a conflict must take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm.

Individuals who deliberately order or take part in attacks targeting civilians or civilian objects are responsible for war crimes. The laws of war prohibit launching attacks where the expected civilian harm and loss of property would be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.

These consistent failings underscore the important role for the International Criminal Court (ICC). In December, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda concluded a preliminary inquiry into the Palestine situation, determining that "all the statutory criteria" to proceed with a formal investigation have been met. However, she then sought a ruling from the court's judges on whether Palestine should be considered a "state" for the purpose of giving the ICC jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

"The November flare-up, like the ones before it, killed and injured civilians in violation of the laws of war," Simpson said. "Such deaths will most likely continue as long as no one is punished for unlawful attacks."
International law also requires compensation for civilian victims in the event of violations of international law. When losses occur, even in the absence of violations of international humanitarian law, civilians should receive assistance or redress. This can take the form of payments for loss of civilian life and property - often known as ex gratia payments - made without legal obligation and non-monetary acknowledgement of the harm done.

 

News Code: 28992
Published Date: Tuesday 4 February 2020 - 10:07:24
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