By Dave Bender
A new United Nations document says that in most cases where Palestinians have been killed or injured during Israel’s ongoing Gaza campaign, the Israeli army alerted civilians ahead of time who were occupying buildings, that they planned to bomb in Gaza, to leave the premises.
“At least 35 residential buildings were reportedly targeted and destroyed, resulting in the majority of the civilian casualties recorded so far, including an attack on 8 July in Khan Younis that killed seven civilians, including three children, and injured another 25,” according to the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Hostilities in Gaza and Israel Situation Report. “In most cases, prior to the attacks, residents have been warned to leave, either via phone calls by the Israel military or by the firing of warning missiles.”
The document was released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at 15:00 on July, 9, 2014.
Hamas, however, has officially urged residents to ignore the Israeli warnings to evacuate prior to Air Force air strikes, and, instead, called on them to serve as human shields.
The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Interior and National Security said in a statement released on Wednesday, that “(sic) the ministry calling all our people not to deal or pay attention to the psychological warfare carried out by the occupation through rumors that broadcast across his media and delivering publications and communications on the phones of citizens, and the lack of response for each of these means, which aims to weaken the domestic front in light of great steadfastness of our people to face the aggression.”
In an interview on July 8, Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri justified using residents as human shields. Prime Minister Netanyahu, in a statement released at the conclusion of a crucial security cabinet meeting Thursday evening on the third day of Operation Protective Edge, emphasized that the IDF was “making every effort to avoid hitting civilians and innocents.”
The PM noted that the casualties so far were because Hamas officials were “maliciously hiding behind Palestinian civilians.”
Israeli Air Force (IAF) GOC Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel said at the same meeting that Israel dropped “hundreds of tons of ordnance and bombs on terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip, in a very complicated environment in which civilians are being used as human shields and we are trying to avoid hitting civilians as much as possible.”
Palestinians report that close to 90 Gazans have been killed and some 630 wounded in IAF strikes across the 40-kilometer-long coastal enclave since the start of Operation Protective Edge.
Israel contends that many of the casualties are members of Hamas and other terror groups. “When houses are used for military purposes, they may become legitimate military targets under international law,” the army additionally said in a statement released Thursday.
However, “Even when a house is considered a lawful military target, the IDF makes great efforts to minimize potential harm to the surrounding civilian population,” the army said.
“The IDF may use real-time visual coverage in order to assess the civilian presence at a target,” the statement said. “The IDF also carefully chooses weaponry and ammunition that will help to minimize any harm to civilians. In certain instances, the IDF also provides advance warning before striking a target,” according to the statement.
“Many of the IDF’s efforts in this regard go beyond its legal obligations and the accepted practice of other militaries operating in urban areas,” the statement read.