Israeli rights group B’Tselem has said that Israel is committing war crimes as it is killing blockaded civilians and destroying infrastructure on a massive scale.
“In Gaza, ever since Operation Guardian of the Walls began, Israel has bombed and shelled civilian population centers and residential buildings, including high-rises housing dozens of families,” the rights group said in a statement posted on its website.
It added: “Israel has reportedly caused massive damage to businesses, electricity and water infrastructure, roads and farmland. Three hospitals have reportedly been damaged: the hospital in Beit Hanoun, the Indonesian Hospital, and the Hala a-Shawa Medical Center (currently not operating).”
On Monday, a massive Israeli airstrike on a residential building opposite the headquarters of the Ministry of Health damaged the government offices and led to several casualties among its emergency teams.
B’Tselem continued: “The Israeli airstrikes are targeting one of the most densely populated places in the world, already gripped by a humanitarian crisis caused, in part, by 14 years of Israeli blockade imposed on its roughly two million residents.”
The rights group pointed out that “Gaza’s besieged civilians have nowhere to run to hide from the strikes,” noting that tens of thousands of families cannot protect themselves.
Regarding the targets of the Israeli attacks, B’Tselem said: “Israel repeatedly boasts that it takes care to safeguard civilians’ lives and claims all its actions are lawful … Israel has claimed they were empty as it had warned the occupants prior to the strike. This claim ignores the fact that the buildings in question cannot be considered legitimate military targets, both because they are inhabited by civilians and because their destruction provides Israel with no military advantage.”
The rights group reiterated that “targeting civilian objects is prohibited and constitutes a war crime.”
B’Tselem said that Palestinian resistance is launching rockets from populated areas and this constitutes a war crime, but this does not justify the Israeli bombing of civilians.
According to B’Tselem, “the hundreds of bombs Israel is boasting of raining down on Gaza are, horrifically, not part of a new policy.”
“Israel bombs the Gaza Strip from time to time, at varying degrees of intensity, killing people and damaging civilian property and infrastructure, while it successfully whitewashes its actions with mechanisms it has put in place to shield policymakers from liability, along with those who approve and implement these policies.”
Concluding its statement, B’Tselem stressed: “The violence has to stop now. That is why the international community must step in immediately and use its leverage to force Israel to change its policy before it claims even more victims.”