Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip last November killed "at least 11 civilians", Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported today, "in apparent violations of the laws of war".
The two Israeli attacks investigated by HRW "struck civilian objects with little or no evidence that the attackers took all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize loss of civilian life," HRW explained.
"The first killed three people at a location where there appeared to be no combatants, weapons, or other military target. The second killed nine people in two homes, at least eight of them civilians."
The investigation was based on interviews with survivors, witnesses, relatives, neighbours and first responders, including field visits to the sites in question.
On 13 November at around 9am, a guided missile likely fired by an Israeli drone killed 54-year-old Rafat Ayyad, and two of his sons, Islam, 23, and Amir, 7, as they rode a motorcycle near Gaza City.
All of those interviewed by HRW stated that neither Rafat nor Islam had any ties to armed factions, and no faction "claimed either of the men as members", HRW stated. In addition, "Israeli authorities have released no information to explain or justify the attack."
Meanwhile, on 14 November, at around 12.15am, three airdropped munitions "fell within about two minutes on adjacent homes of the families of two brothers, Rasmi Abu Malhouse al-Sawarka and Mohammad al-Sawarka, on the edge of Deir al-Balah town in the central Gaza Strip".
"The strikes killed the two brothers, two women, and five boys aged 1, 2, 7, 12, and 13, and injured a woman and nine other children," HRW reported.
HRW stated that eight of the nine killed were certainly civilians, and the ninth casualty, Mohammad Al-Sawarka, may well have been too: "one relative said he was as member of Islamic Jihad, though six others said he was not a member of any armed group, and Islamic Jihad neither referred to him on their website nor claimed him as a 'martyr'", HRW explained.
The organisation described how, on the day of the strike, the Israeli military "released a photo of two men, saying that an attack earlier in the day had killed a man called Rasmi Abu Malhous, and that he was a senior Islamic Jihad commander."
It was only later that month that the Israeli military "admitted that it had made a targeting error", saying "it was not expected that noncombatant civilians would be hurt in the strike".
Then in December, the military "said it had mistakenly categorized the two homes as a 'military compound' instead of a civilian complex 'with some military activity'".
HRW, however, noted that "one relative and two neighbours said that both of the families had lived in their homes for at least 10 years", and "all seven adults interviewed said they were not aware of any activity in the houses that might have made the structures a target."