Israeli officials have been boasting about their “great victory” over “terror” in the Gaza Strip following their two-day onslaught in Gaza, during which they killed, according to an official statistic, 34 Palestinians, including eight children and three women, and wounded 111 others, including 51 children and 11 women.
After ending the offensive, code-named Operation Black Belt, the head of the Arab media division of the Israeli Defence Force’s Spokesperson’s Unit, Avichay Adraee, posted on Twitter “a tangible attack was aimed at the control and command system of the Islamic Jihad.” He also added “tens of terror infrastructures and military bases below and above ground were targeted in addition to marine sites.”
Showing that every target was thoroughly pre-examined and intentionally attacked, Adraee announced “the attacks were surgical and relied on intelligence and operational capabilities.”
At the end of the offensive, Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, thanked the Israeli soldiers and the Israeli Security Forces (Shin Bet) and touted their “success”. While touring a military site, he asserted “our enemies received the message: we can reach everyone. We can reach everyone, even in their bed. I hope that this lesson will be learned.”
The defence minister, Naftali Bennet, stated “the new rules of the game are clear: the IDF will operate with complete freedom of action, with no restrictions. A terrorist who tries to hurt the citizens of Israel will no longer be able to sleep peacefully, neither in his home nor in his bed, nor anywhere in hiding.”
The situation on the ground paints a very difference picture. Regardless of the purposes and expected political gains behind Netanyahu’s “mafia-style behaviour” and “lawless acts”, the offensive on Gaza consisted of a number of massacres carried out mostly against innocent civilians, and according to international law, are classified as war crimes.
With regards to the first strike, which targeted Bahaa Abu Al-Ata, whose murder Netanyahu and his political and military echelons have been flaunting, Abu Al-Ata’s wife was killed, and three of their children and neighbour were wounded. This crime was not accidental, but intentional. Israel claimed that Abu Al-Ata had been traced, according to some reports, for months, and other reports, for over a year.
Choosing the time when he was asleep in his apartment, part of a multi-apartment residential building located in a densely populated area, and while he was beside his wife and near to his children, it is clear that Netanyahu, who himself gave the greenlight to the attack, intended to carry out a war crime.
The second war crime: the killing of three brothers, two were 16 and 17-years-old. They were targeted at the door of their house. They did not fire rockets, nor hide rocket launchers in their home. Was this a war crime or a targeted killing that should be boasted about? If Netanyahu recognises that he is a child-hunter, we can agree that this was a heroic act.
Another tragedy was the third massacre, when Raafat Ayyad, a 54-year-old father, and two of his little children, including one who was seven-years-old, were killed in a strike near their house. Given the aforementioned statements by Netanyahu, his defence minister and the spokesman of their army regarding the intelligence they possessed, I do not believe that these deaths were unintentional.
Then, the fourth and most despicable war crime, in which eight members of the Abu-Malhous family in Deir Al-Balah were killed. Under the roof of a tin shack, a 21-member family lived for more than 20 years. The tin shack was targeted, and the father, his wife and six other members of the family, including five children below the age of 13, were killed, leaving 13 more family members with casualties.
I do not believe that this was not a pre-meditated war crime. This high number of casualties was intended, so that Netanyahu could tell the Israelis one more story about his heroism. The Israeli occupation does not tell their people that they kill civilians, including women and children, but they announce that they have killed “ticking bombs”.
This first three crimes were ignored by the international community, who very quickly condemned the firing of the primitive rockets at Israel. However, the war crime against the Abu-Malhous family, of the Al-Sawarkah tribe, pushed some of them to condemn and call for investigations. Mass media highlighted this one due to the large number of fatalities. This pushed the Israel occupation to justify and comment on it, but the contradictions among the comments of the different Israeli officials and institutions disclosed the real intention behind it – total disregard for Palestinian blood.
After targeting the house, killing eight members of the family and sending the other 13 to the hospital, including a 6-month-old baby, Adraee claimed that it was a targeted attack that killed the senior Islamic Jihad commander, Rasmi Abu-Malhous, and that the Israeli officials thanked the army for this achievement. However, when the war crime was disclosed, apologetic language was used by every Israeli official to escape criticism.
Contradicting Adraee, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the Israeli army as stating that this tin shack “was added months ago to the ‘target bank’ used by the Israel Defence Forces’ Southern Command as an ‘infrastructure target,’ meaning it was of interest as a site, although not because of any individual linked to it.”
To justify the attack, the Israeli army announced that it was a mistake and that it thought that the shack was empty at the time it was targeted. The Israeli army even claimed that Adraee wrote about targeting an Islamic Jihad operative based on false information, and he did not get the necessary permission to do so. But, if that was true, Adraee would have removed that tweet.
If we accept the new narrative of the Israeli army, which stated that the Israeli intelligence did not have Abu-Malhous listed as a terror target, nor was the tin shack classified as an infrastructure of the Islamic Jihad, can we believe that it was a mistake? If so, what kind of a mistake would it be? It was the fourth of its kind in the span of only 48 hours.
Following the international criticism, the United Nations envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, Nicholay Mladenov, offered his condolences to the Al-Sawarkah family and called on Israel to investigate. He did not even refer to it as a war crime, nor did he condemn it. He called it an “attack” and called on Israel to investigate it.
Mladenov tweeted “there is no justification to attacking civilians in #Gaza, or elsewhere! Such a tragedy! My heartfelt condolences to the family of Al-Sawarkah & I wish a speedy recovery to the injured. I call on #Israel to move swiftly with its investigation.”
How can this deter Israel? I do not know. At the end of last month, an Israeli court sentenced the Israeli soldier who killed the 15-year-old Palestinian child, Othman Hellis, last year during the weekly Gaza protests, to one month’s community service. Bearing this in mind, what did Mladenov expect from Israel when he called for an investigation into the massacre.
Journalist, Ali Abunimah, replied to Mladenov’s tweet, “Nickolay can you give an example of when an Israeli self-investigation ever led to real accountability and justice? You know it’s a sham but you don’t have the courage to call for real, international accountability for Israeli crimes.”
In order to stop such Israeli war crimes, there must be a united international courageous action against it, otherwise, we will see many more Israeli soldiers doing community service.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.