Israel Is Deliberately Targeting Civilians In Gaza
By Rania Khalek
14 July, 2014
Relatives mourning the dead from an Israeli air strike on Gaza Sunday. ( Ramadan El-Agha / APA images )
The UN says 77 percent of Palestinians killed in Israel’s relentless bombing campaign on the besieged Gaza Strip have been civilians.
A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs details Israel’s current assault, now it in its sixth day.
With over 150 killed, including an alarming number of women and children, and the death toll in Gaza rising by the hour, Israeli officials insist they are doing all they can to avoid civilian casualties.
Using precision guided missiles, the Israeli army claims it is only bombing people and infrastructure “affiliated with Hamas terrorism” — and the international community is buying it.
What is not being discussed, however, is who and what constitutes a Hamas affiliate.
Hamas is more than just a militant organization, it is the political party that was democratically elected in 2006 to govern the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Hamas’s control means that almost everyone and everything in Gaza can be considered a Hamas affiliate. This unchallenged loose definition has enabled Israel’s war architects to widen the definition of legitimate targets to include civilians and civilian infrastructure, including mosques, schools, hospitals, banks, electricity lines and residential homes, all of which have been targeted.
Aside from a weak condemnation issued by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, the international community has largely accepted Israel’s methodology, completely abandoning defenseless Palestinian civilians as they’re being maimed and slaughtered by one of the world’s most powerful armies.
Israel admits to targeting civilians
Even as Israeli officials openly admit that they are deliberately and systematically bombing the family homes of suspected militants, the international community has raised little objection.
Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s so-called defense minister, boasted to Israel Army Radio: “We are destroying arms, terror infrastructures, command systems, Hamas institutions, regime buildings, terrorists’ houses, and killing terrorists of various ranks of command.”
This explains why entire families have been wiped out by US-supplied Israeli bombs.
Israel has tried to absolve itself of responsibility for these massacres by sometimes warning its victims over the phone to evacuate their homes and “roof knocking” — hitting the roof of a home or building with a small mortar shell prior to bombing it.
But as one raw and terrifying video captured by a Palestinian in Gaza demonstrates, Israel’s airstrike follows within seconds of the warning, giving residents little time to flee, especially children, the elderly and disabled.
Another hasbara (or propaganda) tactic deployed by Israel has been unsubstantiated accusations that Hamas stores weapons within civilian buildings.
But Israel has failed to provide any evidence to corroborate this claim beyond grainy aerial footage and photos that prove nothing.
Everyone is a terrorist
Eighteen people were killed and dozens injured in a single Israeli airstrike on Saturday night targeting the home of Gaza’s police chief, Taysir al-Batsh.
This was not Israel’s first time intentionally targeting Gaza police officers, who the Israeli army classifies as militants despite their civilian status. To kick off “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel’s murderous three-week assault on the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009, the Israeli army rained down bombs on a graduation ceremony for Gaza police cadets, killing 255 people.
Prior to Saturday, Israel bombed a care facility for people with special needs in Beit Lahiya, killing two physically and mentally disabled women as they slept.
Another family was killed after fleeing their home in accordance with a “warning call,” bombed while taking shelter with their neighbors under a tree. The homes, however, were not hit.
Following Knesset deputy speaker Moshe Feiglin’s demands that Israel cut off electricity to Gaza’s dialysis patients, Israeli bombardments have repeatedly damaged Gaza’s electricity lines, leaving 75 percent of Gaza City in the dark.
Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ze’ev Elkin recently recommended cutting off water and electricity to Gaza. Gaza-based journalist Mohammed Omar reports that Israeli airstrikes have since targeted Gaza’s already vulnerable water and sewage system, destroying wells and at least five water pipelines, in clear violation of international law. And it is no accident.
The Dahiya doctrine
This isn’t the first time Israel has targeted civilians on a mass scale, but rather a repeat of war crimes committed in Lebanon in 2006 and perfected in Gaza in 2008-2009 and again in 2012.
The Dahiya doctrine (which refers to the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut that Israel purposely decimated in its 2006 assault on Lebanon) is Israel’s preferred method of warfare. Under this doctrine, the Israeli army deploys overwhelmingly disproportionate force against civilian infrastructure to restore Israel’s deterrence and turn the local population against its enemy, i.e. Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
In the lead up to Operation Cast Lead, senior Israeli army General Gadi Eisenkot disclosed Israel’s plans to expand the Dahiya doctrine, telling an Israeli newspaper, “We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases.” He added, “This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized.”
Two months later Israel pulverized the Gaza Strip, killing some 1,400 people, including almost 400 children, some of whom were deliberately murdered while raising white flags.
Based on statements such as Eisenkot’s combined with Israel’s murderous rampage in Gaza, the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, better known as The Goldstone Report, determined that “The Israeli military conception of what was necessary in a future war with Hamas seems to have been developed from at least the time of the 2006 conflict in southern Lebanon. It finds its origin in a military doctrine that views disproportionate destruction and creating maximum disruption in the lives of many people as a legitimate means to achieve military and political goals.”
The report continued (emphasis mine), “Statements by political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza leave little doubt that disproportionate destruction and violence against civilians were part of a deliberate policy.”
Israel employed this same strategy in its November 2012 Gaza onslaught, which killed 162 Palestinians. Less than two years later, the international community is again witnessing the deliberate slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and has by and large sided with the butcher.
How much longer will the world allow Israel to wipe out Palestinian families with impunity? How many Palestinian children’s lives will be cut short before the world demands and end to Israel’s war crimes?