(12:00 pm Thursday, 11 May 2023 – 12:00 pm Friday, 12 May 2023)
As the Israeli military offensive on the 16-year-besieged Gaza Strip, which started on 9 May 2023 under the so-called “Operation Arrow and Shield”, and which Palestinians are calling “the battle of the revenge of the free” concluded its fourth day, 31 Palestinians, including six children and four women, were killed. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 106 Palestinians, including 36 children and 21 women, were injured as of 12:00 pm, 12 May 2023. During the reporting period, the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) have targeted residential buildings, completely destroying two and partially destroyed another three, some with warning and others without.
Al-Haq also identified the Israeli attack on open areas in Al-Salam neighbourhood, southeast of Rafah city, resulting in the injury of eight Palestinians residing in nearby houses, including three children and three women, sustaining minor to moderate injuries. This may amount to an indiscriminate attack against civilians - prohibited under international humanitarian law.
As of time of reporting, the “Erez” and “Kerem Shalom” checkpoints remain closed by orders of the “Israeli Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories” (COGAT) to the passage of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel, affecting Gazan agricultural, economic and fishing sectors, hampering and denying the movement of thousands of Palestinains, including patients, and the entry of food, medicines, and medical equipment into the hospitals of the Gaza Strip.
Based on its initial documentation and monitoring, the following includes Al-Haq’s reporting on six incidents of killing and destruction of five buildings of Palestinians for the fourth day of the ongoing Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip.
At around 4:00 pm on Thursday, 11 May 2023, Israeli warplanes fired two missiles at the two-story concrete house belonging to Ayman Sha’ban Abu Daqqa, located in Bani Suhaila town, east of Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, without prior warning. As a result, Ahmed Mahmoud Abu Daqqa, 43, a leader of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, was killed, the house was completely destroyed, and nearby houses were damaged. Four civilians were wounded, including a one-year-old toddler and a woman, some of whom were pulled out from under the rubble, and were then transported to the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Yunis.
At approximately 5:00 pm on Thursday, 11 May 2023, the Israeli artillery stationed in the east of Gaza City fired a number of artillery shells, targeting agricultural lands located to the east of the border, and east of Al-Shuja’iya neighbourhood, killing two Palestinians, Hussein Yousef Abdallah Dalloul, 23, and Mohammad Suleiman Khalil Dader, 31, both lived in Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. While the National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, announced that Hussein and Mohammad were among its members, it remains unclear if they were directly participating in hostilities at the time of the attack.
At approximately 9:20 pm on Thursday, 11 May 2023, an Israeli reconnaissance plane targeted two Palestinians with a missile attack in the vicinity of the Abu Al-Khair factory in Jabalia, northern Gaza Strip. As a result, Abd Al-Halim Jawdat Khair Al-Najjar, 21, succumbed to shrapnel wounds sustained in various parts of his body and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the Indonesian Hospital in Jabalia. Elayan Atta Elayyan Abu Wadi, 36, sustained shrapnel injuries causing lacerations in the lower extremities, and was admitted directly to the operating room due to the severity of his injuries, but was later declared dead in intensive care at approximately 5:30 am the next morning, on Friday, 12 May 2023. It remains unclear if the two targeted and killed Palestinians were directly participating in hostilities at the time of the attack.
Later in the evening, at approximately 11:00 pm on Thursday, 11 May 2023, Israeli reconnaissance planes targeted Udai Riyad Ahmad Al-Louh, 25, a resident of Al-Nusseirat camp, while he was in an open agricultural land located in the vicinity of Al-Dawa Mosque, north of Al-Nusseirat camp, in the centre of the Gaza Strip. He was transferred by ambulance to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, and announced dead upon his arrival.
2. Targeting of Homes and Residential Buildings
At approximately 11:00 am on Thursday, 11 May 2023, an Israeli reconnaissance plane fired a ‘warning missile’ targeting the house of Zakariya Ahmad Abed Rabbo Al-Kafarneh, 53, located in Al-Fartah in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. The two-storey house contains two apartments, where two families of nine individuals, including three women and four children reside. The house was partially damaged, and no injuries were reported. The Israeli reconnaissance planes targeted the same house again at approximately 3:00 pm, and for a third time at approximately 4:00 pm on the same day, with two missiles. The ‘warning missile’, also known as ‘knock on the roof’ warning, is meant to ‘warn’ the residents of the targeted house, as well as neighbouring residents, to evacuate before the use of a more devastating type of weapon. In some cases, this might happen hours after firing the ‘warning missile’, leaving the residents of the targeted house and neighbouring houses unable to return to their homes until a cease-fire is announced. Notably and alarmingly, the use of a ‘warning missile’ has gone beyond producing the ‘warning’ effect to effectuate actual damage to the house with its residents present inside.
At approximately 6:30 pm on Thursday, 11 May 2023, Israeli warplanes fired six missiles over the course of an hour at the house and land belonging to the family of Saleh Fathi Bashir, in Al-Baraka neighbourhood, south of Deir Al-Balah. Prior to the attack, the Israeli intelligence called one of the neighbours to inform the family and neighbouring houses to evacuate their homes before targeting the house. The two-storey concrete house is inhabited by four families consisting of 13 individuals, including four children and six women. The bombardment resulted in extensive destruction of the house and partial damage to the neighbouring houses. No injuries were reported.
At approximately 7:30 pm on Thursday, 11 May 2023, an Israeli warplane targeted a residence belonging to Zuhair Ibrahim Muhammad Abu Khater, 57, located to the east of the Education Circle in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip. The two-storey building contains two apartments, and was home to two families of ten individuals, including three women and two children. As a result, the house was completely destroyed, without any injuries reported, and several nearby houses were partially damaged. Notably, 20 minutes before the targeting, the IOF fired four consecutive ‘warning missiles’, and called one of the neighbours and asked him to evacuate the house and the neighbouring houses.
At approximately 12:40 am on Friday, 12 May 2023, an Israeli drone fired a missile at the four-storey residential building belonging to the late Nafez Ghaleb Hamdan Dughmush located in Tal Al-Hawa, west of Gaza City, behind the radio and television building. Notably, 15 minutes before the bombing, Amr received a call from the IOF informing him to evacuate the house. The targeted building is inhabited by Nafez’s sons; Nidal, Mohammad, and Amr and their families. Nidal has a family of seven members, including five children and two women. Mohammad has a family of seven members, including four children and two women, and Amr has a family of six members, including five children and one woman. As a result, the house was partially damaged, and Nidal was moderately injured.
The abovementioned incidents demonstrate clear violations of the provisions of international human rights and international humanitarian law, which may give rise to international crimes and individual criminal responsibility, including violations of the right to life, and deliberately attacking civilians and civilian objects. More specifically:
Violations of the principles of distinction and proportionality. The blanket targeting of Palestinians not directly participating in hostilities and on considerations of a “continuous combat function” is a misapplication of the law governing internal armed conflict, to belligerent occupation. Further the targeting and complete destruction of family homes, as civilian objects may be in breach of the principles of distinction and proportionality.
Violations of the prohibition to carry out indiscriminate attacks. The case of the open area bombardement in Al-Salam neighbourhood in Rafah, with civilian objectives in the vicinity, may amount to a prohibited indiscriminate attack, as set forth in Article 51(4) and (5) of Additional Protocol I, and which constitutes a customary rule under international humanitarian law.
Violations of the principle of precautions. Article 57 of Additional Protocol I, which requires that parties take all feasible precautions to minimise incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. Alarmingly, in some of the above mentioned cases, the IOF fired ‘warning missiles’ or ‘knock on the roof’ warning, which partially damaged the targeted houses, and in other cases such missiles have been fired leaving the residents of the targeted house and neighbouring houses unable to return to their homes. This may amount to “[a]cts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population” and accordingly “are prohibited” under Article 51 of Additional Protocol I.
The almost annual cycle of Israeli military aggressions on the Gaza Strip is a direct result of the absence of concrete actions by the international community to hold Israel accountable for its persistent, ongoing, systematic and institutionalised violations of human rights, and international law since 1948, which includes the commission of the crime against humanity of apartheid. Furthermore, Al-Haq reiterates that justice for the Palestinian people requires acknowledging and addressing the root causes of the Palestinian struggle, embedded in Israel’s settler-colonialism and apartheid regime. To this end, Al-Haq urges Third States to take immediate action and implement all necessary measures to put an end to Israel's military aggression on the Gaza Strip, to bring Israel in compliance with its obligations to spare and protect the Palestinian civilian population, and to impose sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel, in line with international obligations to bring the crime of apartheid to an end.