Israeli repeated use of heavy bombs violates laws of war: UN

AFP , Ahram Online , Wednesday 19 Jun 2024

Israel's repeated use of heavy bombs in the densely-populated Gaza Strip indicates repeated violations of the laws of war, the UN said Wednesday, highlighting six attacks that killed at least 218 Palestinians.

Palestinians sit on the rubble of the Harb family home during search operations following overnight Israeli strikes in al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, June , 2024 .AFP


In a fresh report, the United Nations Rights Office (OHCHR) provided details on the six attacks, which it said were emblematic of a concerning pattern, involving the use of up to 2,000-pound bombs on residential buildings, a school, refugee camps and a market.

The rights office said it had verified 218 deaths in those attacks, which were carried out in the early months of the war on Gaza, and said it had information indicating the number of fatalities "could be much higher".

"The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid or at the very least minimize to every extent civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel's bombing campaign," UN rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.

The report concludes that the series of Israeli strikes, exemplified by the six attacks carried out between October 9 and December 2, suggested that Israel's occupation army had "repeatedly violated fundamental principles of the laws of war", the statement said.

Crimes against humanity

Among the attacks listed were the strikes on Ash Shujaiyeh neighbourhood, in Gaza City on December 2 last year.

The report said these attacks destroyed an approximate diagonal span of 130 metres, destroying 15 buildings and damaging at least 14 others.

The extent of the damage and the craters visible and seen on satellite imagery indicated that around nine 2,000-pound GBU-31 bombs were used, it said, adding that it had received information that at least 60 people were killed.

GBU-31s, along with 1,000-pound GBU-32s and 250-pound GBU-39s "are mostly used to penetrate through several floors of concrete and can completely collapse tall structures," UN rights office spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters.

The report also states that in five of these attacks, no warning was issued, raising concerns concerning violations of the principle of precaution in attack to protect civilians.

The report notes that the Israeli "unlawful targeting when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, in line with a State or organisational policy, may also implicate the commission of crimes against humanity."

On 11 November 2023, the Israeli army stated that since the start of their operation into Gaza, the Air Force had “struck over 5,000 targets to eliminate threats in real time”. By that time the Ministry of Health in Gaza had documented the killing of 11,078 Palestinians, with another 2,700 missing and about 27,490 reportedly injured.

At around the time of these attacks, an Israeli spokesperson said: “While balancing accuracy with the scope of damage, right now we’re focused on what causes maximum damage.” Another army official was quoted as saying “Hamas and the residents of Gaza” are “human beasts” and “are dealt with accordingly. Israel has imposed a total blockade on Gaza. No electricity and no water, just damage. You wanted hell, you will get hell,” the report further explains.

The OHCHR also notes the increasing passage of time that has now elapsed since the attacks, varying from six to eight months, without public clarity on the findings and outcomes. "This length of time, coupled with the systemic concerns on the efficacy and independence of the military justice system identified in previous reporting to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council, calls into serious question the compliance of these processes with international obligations to ensure prompt and effective accountability."

A previous UN investigation concluded on 12 June that Israel has committed crimes against humanity during its war on Gaza, including that of extermination, starvation, and sexual violence.

The UN accused Israel of sexual and gender-based violence during its offensive in Gaza, including torture, abuse and sexual humiliation.

Most of these acts were perpetrated against men and boys, the commission said, while Palestinian women also experienced psychological violence and sexual harassment.

The commission said the widespread use of heavy weapons, and air and artillery strikes in densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip made vast civilian casualties inevitable and constituted “an intentional and direct attack on the civilian population, particularly affecting women and children.”

Israel acted “with intent to cause maximum damage,” the report said.

The commission further concluded that Israel had “used starvation as a method of war.” It added, “Israel has weaponized the withholding of life-sustaining necessities, cutting off supplies of water, food, electricity, fuel and other essential supplies, including humanitarian assistance. This constitutes collective punishment and reprisal against the civilian population.”


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