One month before two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip mark 16 years of Israel’s illegal blockade and closure, they were subjected to the sixth Israeli military offensive since 2008. The official Israeli-declared goal of the pre-planned military offensive, which started on 9 May 2023, and ended with a ceasefire at 10 pm on 13 May 2023, was to target members of the Islamic Jihad Movement in the Gaza Strip. In practice, Israel’s offensive was characterised by widespread shelling of civilian homes in densely populated residential areas, deliberately targeting entire families, including children. While claiming that military targets were present in the bombed locations, Israel failed to abide by inviolable rules of the laws of armed conflict, such as the principles of distinction and proportionality.
During the Israeli five-day military offensive on the Gaza Strip, 33 Palestinians, including six children and four women, were killed, and another 190 Palestinians, including 64 children, and 38 women, were injured according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The Government Media Office in Gaza reported the damage to 2,041 residential units, 93 of which were completely destroyed, 1,820 partially destroyed, and 128 have been rendered uninhabitable. This has resulted in the displacement of entire families residing in an area, whose population is predominantly refugees who have been denied their right to return to their original and ancestral homes and lands since 1948.
Notably, the targeting and killing of Palestinian families and children, and the destruction of civilian properties are not a result of negligence but a purposeful and systematic policy. A striking example of this can be seen in the 2014 military offensive on the Gaza Strip, where 142 Palestinian families had three or more members killed in the same attack. In this recent five-day military offensive, at least five families have witnessed the killing and/or injury of one or more members of their nuclear family, and the partial or complete destruction of their homes, leaving behind displaced orphans and widows, who, in many cases, had also sustained physical injuries, with indescribable socio-economic and psychological impacts.
Furthermore, during the five-day military offensive, the Israeli occupying authorities imposed more restrictive collective punishment measures against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who are already enduring a humanitarian crisis as a result of Israel’s illegal occupation and blockade. The Israeli occupying authorities closed the “Erez” and “Kerem Shalom” checkpoints between 9 and 13 May 2023, preventing the movement of individuals, equipment and services. This included denying the transfer of patients outside of Gaza, and the passage of medicines, medical equipment and supplies into the Gaza Strip, as well as the passage of fuel necessary for the operation of the only power plant in the Gaza Strip; aggravating the existing humanitarian crisis and further undermining the already collapsed health system. The Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority (PENRA), on the fifth day of the military offensive, warned of a humanitarian catastrophe affecting all vital sectors, including health, water, electricity, and other services. PENRA stated that under the 16-year-old blockade, Gaza’s only power plant had already failed to meet the energy demands, and as of 13 May 2023, the aggression and forcible denial of fuel passage had resulted in a 52 per cent energy deficit. Moreover, the aggression had a severe impact on the agricultural and fishing sectors, as fishermen and farmers were unable to access restricted sea areas and their agricultural lands, while significant damage was inflicted on agricultural lands due to Israeli shelling.
Updates on the last two days of the military offensive (Reporting Period: 12 pm Friday, 12 May 2023 - 10 pm Saturday, 13 May 2023)
Al-Haq’s preliminary documentation for the first three days of the military offensive, during which 31 Palestinians were killed, can be found here, here and here. The following preliminary documentation of the last two days of the military offensive, 12 and 13 May 2023, illustrates the targeted killing of two Palestinians and the highly intensive and deliberate targeting of civilian properties.
The Targeted Killing of Two Palestinians on 12 May 2023
At around 4:20 pm on Friday, 12 May 2023, Israeli warplanes fired one missile, without prior warning, at the home of Mohammad Walid Mohammad Abdel ‘Al, 33, which was located on the fifth floor of a six-storey building, containing 19 apartments, located in Al-Nasr Street, north of Gaza City. As a result, two Palestinians were killed; Iyad al-Abed Mohammad al-Husseini, 51, a leader of Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, and Mohammad Walid Mohammad Abdel ‘Al, 33. Another five Palestinians, including two two-year-old toddlers, were wounded. The targeted apartment was completely destroyed, and other apartments in the building and nearby houses incurred damage.
The Massive Destruction of Residential Homes, Displacing 350 Palestinians Within Two Days
The below timeline showcases the complete destruction of residential homes across the Gaza Strip over the course of the last two days of the military offensive, spanning from 11 to 13 May 2023. Although the owners of the targeted homes had received “warning” calls directly from Israeli intelligence officers or via neighbours or relatives to evacuate their homes prior to the airstrikes, and/or the homes had been targeted with the so-called “warning missiles” from Israeli renaissance planes, and no serious injuries were reported, the complete destruction of these residential homes resulted in the displacement of at least 61 families, consisting of 350 Palestinians, including 183 children, and 76 women. In most of these cases, nearby homes were also damaged.
At around 2:10 pm on Friday, 12 May 2023, Israeli warplanes launched two missiles at the home of Ahmad Ayesh Silmi Al Hashash, 41, located in Mosbeh neighbourhood, north of Rafah city. The home was inhabited by one family of seven Palestinians, including five children and one woman. During the same attack, two neighbouring residential apartments were also completely destructed: the home of Kamel Mazeed Salameh Al-Hashash, inhabited by two families of 13 Palestinians, including eight children and two women; and the home of Mohammad Ayesh Salameh Al-Hashash, inhabited by one family of nine Palestinians, including five children and two women.
At around 2:15 pm, on Friday, 12 May 2023, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a two-storey residence owned by Samir Mohammad Matar Taha, 61, located in the Al-Fakhoura area in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip. The aforementioned building comprised three apartments and was home to two families consisting of eight Palestinians, including four children and two women.
At around 3:55 pm on Friday, 12 May 2023, an Israeli warplane launched two missiles at a three-storey residence belonging to Kamal Ahmad Ahmad Abu Teir, 61, located in Abasan Al-Kabira, east of Khan Younis. The residence comprised five apartments, serving as the homes of four families of 18 Palestinians, including seven children and four women.
At around 4:20 pm on Friday, 12 May 2023, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a three-storey residence owned by Hussein Mohammad Hasan Marouf, 58, situated in the Al-Amal neighbourhood of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. The residence comprised four apartments and was home to three families, totalling 15 Palestinians, including nine children and three women.
At around 8:30 pm on Friday, 12 May 2023, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a five-storey residence belonging to Mohammad Ali Hasan Yaseen, 60, located in Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. The residence was inhabited by five families, totalling 24 Palestinians, including ten children and three women.
At around the same time, Israeli warplanes launched two missiles at a two-storey residence owned by Yahya Kamil Salem Abu Obeid, 55, and situated in Deir Al-Balah city. The residence comprised two apartments, and was home to two families, totalling 11 Palestinians, including two children and six women. The bombing of Yahya’s residence caused extensive damage in the vicinity, including the severe and partial destruction of approximately 20 neighbouring homes, and the partial damage of four departments of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, which is located around 100 meters away from the targeted home and serves as the primary and only hospital for Deir Al-Balah Governorate’s 350,000 population. As a result of the attack, two hospital staff members and one child patient sustained mild injuries. Another six Palestinians, including four children and one woman, from the nearby residences of the targeted home were admitted to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for minor injuries.
At around 1:30 am on Saturday, 13 May 2023, Israeli warplanes fired four renaissance missiles at a three-storey residence belonging to Salim Hasan Ismail Abu Ataa, 60, located in Al-Shuja’iyya neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. The residence was inhabited by two families of 20 Palestinians, including 13 children and two women. Notably, the owner of the targeted residence is the father of Bahaa Salim Hasan Abu Al-Ata, 42, who was a leader of the Al-Quds Brigades. Bahaa was killed by the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) on 12 November 2019, in a targeted bombing in his bedroom, which also led to the killing of his wife, Asmaa Mohammad Hasan Abu Al-Ata, 38, and the injury of four of their children, three of whom were minors.
At around 3:00 am on Saturday, 13 May 2023, Israeli warplanes fired one missile at a five-storey residence owned by Hazem Adel Mohammad Mohhana, 60, located in Al-Yarmouk neighbourhood, north of Gaza City. The home was inhabited by five families of 19 Palestinians, including five children and eight women.
At around 10:05 am on Saturday, 13 May 2023, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a three-storey residence belonging to Faraj Fathi Ahmad Banat, 39, located in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. The residence comprised three apartments, housing three families of 22 Palestinians, including 12 children and four women. As a result, two women sustained minor injuries. Three nearby homes and the local electricity and telecommunications networks in the neighbourhood were extremely damaged. Other nearby homes and Al Sheikh Saad Mosque were also damaged.
At around 11:45 am on Saturday, 13 May 2023, an Israeli warplane launched two missiles at a three-storey residence of the late Khader Radwan Mohammad Al-Za’aneen, located in Beit Hanoun town, in the northern Gaza Strip. The residence comprised six apartments, serving as the homes to six families consisting of 46 Palestinians, including 30 children and six women.
At around 2:15 pm on Saturday, 13 May 2023, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a four-storey residence owned by Khalid Mustafa Badawi Nabhan, 52, located in Bi’r Al-Na’ja area, in Jabalia town, northern Gaza Strip. The residence comprised eight apartments, accommodating six families totalling 45 Palestinians, including 28 children and nine women.
Houriya Badawi Nabhan, 44, Khalid’s niece, said that her uncle’s home was inhabited by five persons with disabilities, two of whom are children. Houriya added that their medical equipment and treatment papers were completely lost under the rubble of their destroyed home. She added that when her cousin, Khalid Nabhan, received a “warning call” from an Israeli intelligence officer at 2:00 pm on the same day to immediately evacuate the home, Khalid attempted to delay the bombing and ensure sufficient time to evacuate the residents, especially those with disabilities. To no avail, the IOF allowed them only 15 minutes, before carrying out the attack and bombing their home.
At around 2:30 pm on Saturday, 13 May 2023, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at the home of Mohammad Shihdeh Mohammad Al-Haou, 61, located in the Al-Jarn area, in Jabalia town, in the northern Gaza Strip. The targeted home was inhabited by one family of six Palestinians, including three women.
At around 5:05 pm on Saturday, 13 May 2023, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a three-storey residence of the late Khalid Kamal Ali Al-Shnbari, located in Beit Hanoun town, in the northern Gaza Strip. The residence comprised four apartments and was home to three families of 15 Palestinians, including eight children and four women. The same attack resulted in the complete destruction of two adjacent apartments, which were inhabited by two families, consisting of six members, including one child and two women.
At around 5:40 pm on Saturday, 13 May 2023, Israeli warplanes fired two missiles at a two-storey residence owned by Azmi Fadel Hasan Tafesh, 50, located east of Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. The residence was inhabited by two families, comprising 12 Palestinians, including seven children, two of whom have disabilities, and three women.
At around 6:00 pm on Saturday, 13 May 2023, Israeli warplanes fired two missiles at a three-storey residence belonging to Ziyad Salim Husni Silmi, 50, located east in Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. The residence consisted of two apartments, and was home to two families, totalling 13 Palestinians, including nine children and three women.
At around 7:00 pm on Saturday, 13 May 2023, Israeli warplanes fired one missile at the home of Salah Mohammad Ibrahim Al-Loh, 34, located west of Al-Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Deir Al-Balah Governorate. The targeted home was inhabited by one family, comprising five Palestinians, including three children and one woman. The same attack also resulted in the complete destruction of the nearby home belonging to Salah’s father, Mohammad Ibrahim Al-Loh, 68, which comprised four apartments, and was home to four families, totalling 18 Palestinians, including ten children and four women.
First and foremost, it is important to stress that the entire military offensive is happening in a context of an illegal occupation, where Israel has consistently violated a series of peremptory norms of international law. These violations include the annexation of territory, disregard for the principle of temporariness, failure to fulfil obligations as an Occupying Power to act in good faith and in the best interests of the occupied population, and the denial of the inalienable right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and right of return for Palestinian refugees. Moreover, the closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007 constitute a form of collective punishment, in clear violation of international humanitarian law.
The abovementioned incidents that occurred between 11 and 13 May further reveal a widespread pattern of attacks targeting civilian objects in breach of the international humanitarian principles, namely of distinction and proportionality. The Occupying Power is obliged to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives and to direct their attack only against military objectives,1 and to employ means and methods of warfare that would not cause excessive damage to civilian lives or civilian objects in relation to the expected military advantage.2 Breach of such, may amount to several war crimes prosecutable under the International Criminal Court including 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”.3
The loss of 33 Palestinian lives during the military offensive reflects Israel’s systematic use of excessive, disproportionate, and indiscriminate force against Palestinians. As the military offensive on the Gaza Strip was taking place, the IOF killed seven Palestinians in the West Bank, mainly in Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarem governorates, bringing the total number of killings in the Occupied Palestinian Territory during the five-day period between 9 and 13 May 2023 to 40 Palestinians.
Hours after the ceasefire was announced, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, celebrated the military offensive in a cabinet meeting, commending and thanking the IOF and Israel’s Shin Bet for their “perfect execution” of the offensive, which he and the Israeli “Defense” Minister, Yoav Gallant, initiated to “surprise the terrorists in Gaza”. During the meeting, Netanyahu further boasted about “Israel’s status as an energy power”, recalling his recent meeting with the President of Cyprus, where they discussed upcoming projects aimed at “transferring gas from Israel to Europe via a gas liquefaction plant in Cyprus”. Netanyahu said, “Europe needs energy, it needs gas, and creating an easy and inexpensive gas supply from Israel and Europe will strengthen Israel’s position very much”. Indeed, dominating Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, within the context of Zionist settler-colonialism, apartheid, illegal occupation, and blockade, and denying them sovereignty over their natural resources, including their coastal resources, is essential to “launch Israel’s economy to new heights and strengthen Israel’s status as an important international energy provider” as Netanyahu stressed.
The declaration of a ceasefire does not bring an end to Israel’s entrenched system of racial oppression, domination and dispossession. As the international community engages in expanding trade agreements, projects and “dialogue” forums with Israel, the Palestinian people will continue to suffer loss of life, and their rights will continue to be violated, while Israel’s impunity remains entrenched. As this May marks 75 years of the Nakba and June will mark 16 years since the illegal blockade and closure, the Palestinian people continue to experience frustration and a lack of hope regarding the international community’s response. Rather than forging new agreements and fostering relationships with Israel, Third States must fulfil their legal and moral obligations, by implementing effective and meaningful countermeasures, including economic sanctions, arms embargoes, severing diplomatic ties, and ending trade with the colonial settlement enterprise.
Article 52, Additional Protocol I (1977); Rule 10, ICRC, “Study on Customary IHL”, <https://www.icrc.org/en/doc/assets/files/other/customary-law-rules.pdf>
Rule 14, ICRC, “IHL Database, Customary IHL”, <https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_rul.
Article 8(2)(b)(iv), Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.