according to the ocha situation report, between monday and yesterday, the israeli army destroyed or partially damaged 150 homes in gaza through bombs. an israeli military spokesperson boasted that until yesterday afternoon, over 400 tons of explosives were dropped on gaza, more than in all of 2012 together, including the three weeks of airstrikes on gazans that constitutes the last major military campaign. over 80 people were murdered so far and more than 600 injured (in a place were hospitals were already lacking essentials due to seven years of a brutal and illegal blockade). and throughout all of this, the israeli repeatedly rejects propositions of a ceasefire by hamas and army continues to announce much worse to come.
bombing of the kawara’a home: killing six children and two adults
three days ago, israeli military called the kawara’a family and told them to leave their home because they were going to bomb it. the building housed seven apartments for the extended family. the family went out and gathered nearby with neighbors. after more than an hour, a missile from a remote-controled drone hit the water tank on the roof of the house. the family had just started to return to their house and four members had gone up to the roof to examine it, when a fighter jet fired another missile at the house. the building collapsed and eight people were killed, including six children. 28 were injured. a home for many people destroyed forever. lives extinguished forever. (this sumary of events is based on this report by btselem that explains international law concerning the bombing of homes)
here is a video of the inside of a home that was bombed at around 7.30 in the morning. 15 minutes earlier, the family had received a warning and had managed to run out in time. in their case, no one was injured, but their home destroyed.
why? basically, because they can. the reason the army gives is because a hamas member, supposedly a senior hamas member, lived in that building. neither morally, nor under international law, is that anywhere near close to good enough. under international law, even killing a known combatant, a soldier, a fighter, etc., constitutes a war crime UNLESS the individual is engaging in active combat at the time. so even if odeh kawara’a was an active hamas combatant, no army would have had the right to kill him unless he was AT THAT MOMENT engaging in combat and posing a threat.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES would it have been legal (forget morally ok) to bomb a house in which his family lives – EVEN IF THE FAMILY HAD NOT BEEN AT HOME AT THE TIME OF THE BOMBING.
Article 52(2) of Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions states: “In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.” (quote and video taken from this ei post by ali abunimah on the purposeful targetting on homes)
but in the case of the kawara’a’s, the family was at home, and the army would have been able to see that people had gathered outside of the house. even had they not known that people had reentered the house, they would have known that those nearby would likely get injured or worse.
the army’s initial statement reads as an admission of war crime (“yes, we bombed his house because he is a hamas member”). retracting this statement, they argue in a second one that the house itself had served as a headquarter and also turned to framing the killing as an accident.
warning gazans that they are about to be bombed – more cynical posing as the “most moral army”
when bombing homes in gaza, the israeli military sometimes uses a practise it calls “knocking on the roof”: a small missile hits the roof as a warning just before more deadly missile is dropped (and sometimes that small missile damages neighboring houses)
this practise is so cynical, so typically israeli military: they deceive themselves in thinking this makes their bombing morally ok because they SOMETIMES warn people just before they bomb their homes – like they SOMETIMES drop flyers from their jets warning gazans of uncoming attacks. even IF people had time to leave their homes (and where should they go? and why should they have to leave their homes in the first place?) the wanton destruction of their homes and memoralia, the danger to their neighbors, is an unwarranted crime.
here is another video of the bombing of a house where the family managed to escape in time. Ahmed, a neighbor, wrote this: “Another close neighbor house! A small drone rocket have been shelled on the roof of the house, the family hurried up and got out it to the street. 4 minutes later the huge bomb fall on the place and demolished it. I mean, they know that the family live in this house and it is not a military facility. Stop destroying our houses !!”
As the Palestinian Center for Human rights points out: “A home cannot be classified as a military objective merely because it [is] owned by a fighter. Instead, it must be recognized as a civilian object and protected from direct attack. Issuing a warning does not remove this protection from direct attack” (the report is summed up the above mentioned ei post).
killing the hamad and the malaka families: homes bombed without prior warning
but in the case of the hamad family, the family of hafez hamad who was member of islamic jihad, the israeli military bombed the house at night, apparently without prior warning (sumary based on this guardian article by peter beaumont on the targetting of homes). the family was sitting outside on a small sofa/divan between two buildings, it was after iftar, and they were talking, when a missile from an remote-controlled drone hit right in front of the sofa. together with hafez, his wife, two of his brothers, his niece (who is said to be between 16 and 20) were killed, and an elderly woman who might have been their mother or aunt (names and ages taken from the btselem article mentioned above).
similarly, the house of mustafa malaka, another member of hamas was bombed without warning. mustafa is said to have mostly been unemployed since hamas had rarely been able to pay wages in the gaza strip due to the blockade and had been taken to raising chicken to make a living. according to this peter beaumont, all that is left of his home is “s a six-metre crater, six metres (20ft) wide, filled with rubble and the remains of their possessions – a shirt hanging from a section of concrete. Collapsed in the blast was the chicken coup the behind the house, the pullets wandering among the bodies of those killed.” The bomb injured mustafa, but it killed his wife and his baby son.
israeli army announces plans to continue bombing homes, including with residents inside
and yet, as beaumont’s quote of a high ranking military person indicates, the israeli army is bend on continuing to target homes, no matter the costs:
“We will take down those houses. If these people, like those yesterday, try to confront a plane in the air, and the pilot signals [that he plans to blow up the house] – get out, because that house will fall.”
BDS and other action, more important than ever
If you ask yourself what to do, get involved with the boycott, divestment and sancions movement if you aren’t already. it is now more important than ever that we force consequences on israel until it complies with international law where our governments won’t. For a start, read these suggestions as to how to get involved.
Apart from that, yes, do join protests, particularly in front of israeli embassies, write letters to your own politicians if that is your thing, OR CONTACT YOUR MAINSTREAM MEDIA AND DEMAND LESS BIASED REPORTING!
they continue to kill because we let them.