Information as of 5:00 pm, 9 May 2023
On 9 May 2023, in a planned Israeli overnight air attack targeting Palestinian residential homes in the Gaza Strip, 13 Palestinians, including four children and four women, were killed, and around another 20, including three children and seven women, were injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
According to the Israeli occupying authorities, the targets were three Palestinian military commanders with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, Tariq Izz Al-Deen, Khalil Al-Bahtini, and Jihad Al-Ghannam. At the time of the planned targeted killings, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) shelled the homes of the three Palestinian military commanders, while knowing they were with their families and children. This has resulted in the killing of the three Palestinians, as well as the killing and injury of their family members and other civilians in nearby homes.
Israel’s Intention to Commit the Killing and Official Celebrations
Israeli news agencies have reported that the attack on the three Palestinian military commanders was approved by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli ‘Defence’ Minister, Yaov Galant, last Friday, 5 May 2023, and was to be executed on Sunday, 7 May 2023. It was further reported that Netanyahu did not seek Cabinet approval for this attack, which was approved by the Attorney General, Gali Bahar-Miara, who concluded that “convening the Cabinet was not necessary under the provisions of the law to authorise military operation”.
Due to “concern that the operation [had it been carried out on Sunday] would not be accurate”, the Israeli occupying authorities chose to launch the attack during the early hours of today, 9 May 2023, despite knowing the three Palestinian military commanders were with their families, and thereby, with anticipated high loss of life and/or injury to protected Palestinians. This deliberate and premeditated act underscores the fact that the killing of Palestinian families and children is not a mere oversight but rather a carefully calculated one, and is part of a systemic policy. During the 2014 military offensive on the Gaza Strip, for example, 142 Palestinian families had three or more members killed in the same incident.
Right after the deadly attack, celebratory statements were delivered by Israeli government officials, including ‘Defence’ Minister, Yaov Galant, ‘National Security’ Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who respectively said: “...any terrorist member who harms Israel citizens will regret. We will follow our enemies, and catch them”; “I congratulate the prime minister on the preemptive action in Gaza. This is a good start. It’s time to change the policy with Gaza”; and “whoever harms us should know that he will not be forgiven. He will be punished at the appropriate moment. Thank you to the army and security forces for carrying out the operation, and to the prime minister and defence minister for the initiative... The army is ready to continue”.
The 9 May Targeted Killing of Three Palestinian Military Commanders
The planned 9 May attack targeted three different residential buildings across the Gaza Strip simultaneously. According to Al-Haq’s initial documentation, a residential building of 22 apartments known as ‘Al-Diwali Building’, located in the central Al-Remal neighbourhood of Gaza City, was targeted by an Israeli warplane that fired two missiles. The first missile was aimed at the rooftop apartment located in the western side, where Dr. Jamal Khaswan, a 52-year-old Palestinian-Russian, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al-Wafaa Rehabilitation Hospital in Gaza, well-known dentist and former head of the Dental Syndicate, resides with his wife and children. The second missile specifically targeted an apartment on the fifth floor of the same building’s southwestern side, where Tariq Izz Al-Deen, a 48-year-old leader of the Islamic Jihad Movement, and a former prisoner from Jenin, who was released as part of the Wafaa al-Ahrar deal and deported to the Gaza Strip in 2011, resides with his family.
The bombing of the two apartments resulted in the killing of six Palestinians, including two children and one woman. Dr. Jamal, his 44-year-old wife, Mirvat, and their 19-year-old son, Yousef, were among the Palestinians killed, leaving behind their orphaned 15-year-old and 13-year-old sons, Yazan and Yamin, who were also injured by the attack. Tariq Izz Al-Deen, along with his ten-year-old daughter, Mayar, and eight-year-old son, Ali, were also killed in the attack. Tariq is survived by his 44-year-old wife, Maysa, and their 22-year-old son, Mohammad, who were also injured by the attack.
Mayar and Ali with their father, Tariq Izz Al-Deen
Similarly, and at the same time, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at the residence of Khalil Al-Bahtini, a leader in the Islamic Jihad Movement and the commander of the Northern Al-Quds Brigade. The targeted two-story building, located in the Al-Sha’f area of the Al-Tuffah neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City, consists of two apartments. The attack resulted in the killing of five Palestinians, including two children and two women. Khalil, his 43-year-old wife, Laila Al-Bahtini, and their four-year-old daughter, Hajar, were killed in the attack, which also injured and orphaned Khalil’s two other daughters, 13-year-old Sara, and 11-year-old Nada. The attack also resulted in the killing of two sisters, 19-year-old Dania and 17-year-old Eman Alaa Adas, who reside in an adjacent house to the Al-Bahtini family.
Hajar Khalil Al-Bahtini
Simultaneously, Israeli warplanes launched three missiles targeting the home of Jihad Al-Ghannam, the commander of the Southern Al-Quds Brigades, and the secretary of the military council of the Al-Quds Brigades in the Gaza Strip. The targeted house is located in Al-Janiyah neighbourhood in Rafah city, southern Gaza Strip. The attack resulted in the destruction of the two-story house and the killing of 62-year-old Jihad, and his 62-year-old wife, Wafaa, while their 30-year-old son, Hashem, sustained serious injuries to the chest. The attack also caused damage to nearby houses, injuring five other Palestinians, including a child. Notably, this was not the first targeted killing attempt on Jihad, who was previously injured in a 2003 killing attempt, resulting in the amputation of his feet.
After the attack, the “Israeli Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories” (COGAT) has announced that the “Erez” and “Kerem Shalom” crossings will be closed to the passage of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel, until further notice; effectively further tightening the 16-year-long closure on the Gaza Strip, which constitutes prohibited collective punishment, and severely restricts the freedom of movement of Palestinians, including those in need of medical treatment and equipment.
Al-Haq asserts that the 9 May deadly attack violates provisions of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and may constitute the war crime of willful killing. It also constitutes arbitrary deprivation of the right to life under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The killing of the civilians in this attack cannot be argued to have been part of collateral damage as the killing took place in the absence of active hostilities. Even if there had been active hostilities, the principles of proportionality and distinction must be respected. The principle of proportionality requires that parties involved in an armed conflict use means and methods of warfare that do not cause undue harm to civilian lives or infrastructure in comparison to the anticipated military advantage. A breach of this principle can constitute a war crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, which criminalises acts of “intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects … which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated”, when carried out in the context of an international armed conflict, such as, occupation.
With only six days remaining until the Palestinian people commemorate the 75th anniversary of Al-Nakba, this attack serves as a poignant reminder that Al-Nakba has never ended. 75 years of ongoing oppression, suppression, and domination of the Palestinian people, have been facilitated with the international community’s deliberate lack of action to ensure an end to Israel’s illegal occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.
Al-Haq warns that should the international community resume their inaction toward Israeli crimes, the lives, dignities and the future of entire Palestinian families will continue to be lost, disrupted and torn apart. As we approach the 75th anniversary of Al-Nakba, the international community, and specifically Third States, could rectify their historic and ongoing passivity, which have enabled the ongoing Nakba, and acknowledge the root causes driving the Israeli systematic and continuous violations against the Palestinian people, stemming from Israel’s settler-colonialism, apartheid regime, and illegal occupation.
Rather than only issuing statements, Third States must fulfil their legal and moral obligations, by implementing effective actions, including economic sanctions, arms embargoes, severing diplomatic ties, and ending trade with the settlement enterprise. As the International Criminal Court has been observing the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people since the opening of the full criminal investigation into the Situation of Palestine in 2021, Al-Haq urges the Prosecutor to take immediate action to conclude the investigation which was officially opened over two years ago to deter and prevent further deprivation of lives, and commission of more crimes by the Israeli authorities.