Israeli air strikes during Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip, Operation Protective Edge, targeted inhabited multi-story family homes. Whole families, including many women and children, were killed or injured by these targeted strikes and, in addition, there was extensive destruction of civilian property.
These attacks were carried out in the context of a 50-day conflict, from July 8 until August 26, in which the scale of destruction, damage, death and injury to Palestinian civilians, homes and infrastructure was appalling. According to figures released by the United Nations, some 1,523 civilians, including 519 children, are among more than 2,192 Palestinians who died during the operation. By the time of the ceasefire on August 26 there were approximately 110,000 internally displaced persons living in emergency shelter and with host families. The U.N. estimated that about 18,000 housing units were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, leaving approximately 108,000 people homeless. A further 37,650 housing units were damaged.
At the same time, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets and mortar rounds into civilian areas of Israel, killing six civilians, including one child. Dozens of other Israelis, including at least six children, were directly injured by rockets or shrapnel. A total of 66 soldiers were killed in the fighting.
Amnesty International has documented and is continuing to document serious violations of international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings and injuries to civilians and destruction of civilian property, both by Israel and by Hamas and Palestinian armed groups.
In this report Amnesty International examines targeted Israeli attacks carried out on inhabited civilian homes in the light of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law, specifically the rules on the conduct of hostilities. It does so by focusing on eight cases, in which targeted Israeli attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 111 people, of whom at least 104 were civilians, including entire families, and destroyed civilian homes. The cases were chosen for a variety of reasons, including the availability of witnesses, the clarity of the evidence and the number of civilians killed. They include two cases in which there were particularly high civilian casualties (at least 33 civilians killed in the bombing of the al-Dali building and 25 in the destruction of the Abu Jame’ family home). In all the cases documented in this report, there was a failure to take necessary precautions to avoid excessive harm to civilians and civilian property, as required by international humanitarian law. In all cases, no prior warning was given to the civilian residents to allow them to escape.
In four of the cases (the attacks on the Abu Jame’ family home, the al-Dali building, the al-Bakri family home and the Abu Dahrouj family home), in which a total of at least 66 civilians were killed, Amnesty International has been able to identify a named individual who was an apparent member of an armed group. However, even if a fighter or a military objective was indeed present (or thought to have been present), the loss of civilian lives, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects appear disproportionate, that is, out of proportion to the likely military advantage of carrying out the attack, or otherwise indiscriminate. However, due to lack of information from the Israeli authorities, Amnesty International cannot be certain in any of these attacks what was being targeted. In cases where there is no military objective, an attack could violate the international humanitarian law prohibition of direct attacks on civilian objects and on civilians. Attacks directed at civilian objects or at civilians, or disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians are war crimes. The fact that, in these eight cases which caused the deaths of at least 104 civilians, Israel has made no statement about who or what was being targeted, or even acknowledged that it carried out these particular attacks and the loss of civilian lives that they caused, is deeply worrying.