Israel’s latest crimes in Gaza: Heart stopping

Mohamed Abu Shaar , Tuesday 6 Jun 2023

In seconds, Israeli missiles turn Palestinian dreams into rubble. The Israeli army’s tactic in all its military operations against Gaza is to demolish homes.

Heart stopping
Mourners carry the bodies of three Palestinian militants, Abdallah Abu Hamdan, 24, Mohamed Zaytoun, 32, and Fathi Rizk, 30, during their funeral in the Balata refugee camp earlier this month (photo: AP)


The last of these military attacks was Operation Shield and Arrow, which began with the assassination of three military commanders from Islamic Jihad on 9 May and continued for several days.

The outcome was 33 Palestinians dead and 190 injured, and the destruction of 15 housing compounds with more than 50 homes. In all some 940 homes were impacted by Israel’s strikes, 49 of which are no longer safe to live in. Financial losses are estimated at $9 million.

The Israeli army said it attacked 422 targets in the Gaza Strip, assassinating six key military commanders belonging to Islamic Jihad. But homes were the key target of the air raids, leaving hundreds of Palestinians homeless and destitute.

On the fifth day of the military attack on Gaza, fighter jets flattened the residential building of the Nabhan family in northern Gaza. The building was made up of eight apartments on four storeys, and its destruction has left 40 people homeless, including special-needs residents.

An Israeli intelligence officer called one of the neighbours and gave the residents minutes to evacuate before the bombing began. Calling shortly before an attack is a tactic by Israel to avoid being blamed for harming civilians.

Najah Nabhan, the wife of the building’s owner and a mother to several special-needs children, recalls the details of how she lost the home she was forced to abandon. “Israeli intelligence called us and said to evacuate the house within five minutes,” Najah told Al-Ahram Weekly. “With great difficulty and help from the neighbours, we all fled. We didn’t have time to grab our identity papers or my children’s medicine or medical equipment.” The latter are expensive and not always available in Gaza.

This mother in her fifties elaborated: “My children suffer medical conditions that have caused them paralysis, and some of them are epileptic. My youngest, four-year-old Razan, has problems with her legs and her nervous system. Now, all our personal documents, medical reports and equipment are buried under the rubble.”

The entire extended family is now homeless, Najah lamented. They have sought temporary refuge with neighbours and relatives, until they find an alternative or rebuild their home and receive assistance.

Najah’s son, 16-year-old Mohamed, recalls the day his home was incinerated by Israeli missiles. “I was asleep, and my cousins woke me up but I refused to leave the house. Despite my objections, they carried me out.”

Mohamed’s rationale was that there was nowhere to flee. According to Hanin, 16, who is physically disabled, “they bombed my home with a warning missile before we fled the building, so we ran out and left medical equipment, clothes, and everything else. They are all under the rubble.” Hanin is distraught about all that her family has lost.

Israel “knocks” on a building by firing a small warning rocket without entirely destroying the structure. This is followed shortly by heavy missiles that turn it into rubble within seconds. Palestinian human rights groups describe Israel’s targeting of Palestinian homes as collective punishment, since homes with large numbers of residents are demolished under the pretext that one dweller belongs to an armed Palestinian faction.

Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights stated that “bombing safe civilian residential areas and assassinations are war crimes, and grave violations of the principles of international law. Most notably, the Fourth Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian Population and the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court.”

Targeting homes and assassinations in Gaza demonstrate the occupation forces’ disregard for international law, as they continue to commit gross systematic violations of international humanitarian law resulting from a policy of impunity and lack of accountability.

Israel justifies bombing and demolishing residential homes by claiming that armed Palestinian factions use these homes to launch rocket attacks against it, or that there are tunnels underneath them. Palestinian factions deny these allegations, asserting that they avoid all military action in residential areas.

Tamim Dawoud, five, died of a heart attack from the sound of missiles raining down on the house next door. In a tragic scene, Tamim was so terror struck that his heart stopped as his father held him in his arms.

“They were bombing the building next door, and Tamim was petrified. He could not say a word. He was sitting next to me. He screamed. Glass shattered over our heads and smoke filled the house. He was traumatised for hours, then he died of fright.”

His father described Tamim’s last moments: “He was in a panic, beating his heart very hard with his hands. He went into convulsions, and died on our way to hospital. Doctors tried to resuscitate his heart, but failed.”

According to official statistics, there are 2.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip living in the world’s most densely populated area, in 365 square kilometres. Some 80 per cent of the Gaza population depend on international aid for survival. The latest military onslaught ended with a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions that was mediated by Egypt. Its three tenets are: stop targeting civilians; stop demolishing homes; and stop targeting individuals.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 1 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Search Keywords:
Short link: