Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: B'Tselem

B’Tselem [summary executions are categorically prohibited]: “International law categorically prohibits the extrajudicial killing of civilians – regardless of the allegations against them”.  This is written in a statement concerning the public killing of 7  men during the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Clouds who were accused of being “collaborators” with Israel.  Some senior Hamas officials, including deputy politburo chief, Mousa Abu Marzook, condemned these executions. [See here.] It is not clear whose idea these executions were. This B’Tselem statement is posted here.

B’Tselem [media sites are not legitimate military targets]: “international humanitarian law is very clear on the subject: Neither reporters nor any other civilians may be intentionally targeted, and every feasible precaution must be taken to protect them from the impact of hostilities. Additionally, the media – including those belonging directly to the parties to the conflict – are not legitimate military targets, even if they are used to disseminate propaganda. Where there exists any doubt as to whether or not a target is military or civilian – that target is to be presumed to be civilian … In a statement issued by the IDF Spokesman immediately following the first attack, on the a-Shuruk Building, the Israeli military stated that the attack had been directed at ‘antennas used by Hamas for military operations against the State of Israel in the northern Gaza Strip’. In a later statement, the IDF Spokesman clarified that both attacks were directed against the communications infrastructure of Hamas, which it claims Hamas uses to communicate operational instructions and disseminate propaganda …

“B’Tselem’s investigation indicates that several Al-Quds TV employees were present in their offices in Shawwa-Husari Building at the time of the attack, as they were under the assumption that the Israeli military would not bomb it. A missile fired from an Israeli aircraft went through the roof of the building and hit their offices. At least six of the employees were injured, two of them seriously. The injured were taken to the ninth floor, where they awaited ambulances, as other employees descended to the building’s ground floor. About a quarter of an hour after the first explosion, as the injured were being loaded on ambulances, the roof of the building was struck a second time. In this attack, a photographer who had gone to the roof to document the damage caused in the first airstrike was injured…B’Tselem is not in a position to determine whether there is any basis for the IDF Spokesman’s claim regarding the military’s justification for these attacks”. This is posted here.

B’Tselem [on the absolute prohibition of shooting live ammunition and tear gas cannisters at protesters]: “Since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, protest demonstrations have been held throughout the West Bank. In some of these, Palestinians threw stones at security forces and in some cases soldiers and border police responded with live fire. An investigation into these incidents by B’Tselem raises the suspicion that command echelons have permitted soldiers to use live fire, including in confrontations with stone throwers who are not armed and in situations that are not life threatening to the soldiers … B’Tselem has written urgently to the IDF OC Central Command, the Commander of military forces in Judea and Samaria, and the legal advisor for Judea and Samaria, demanding that it be made unequivocally clear to soldiers and commanders in the West Bank that there is an absolute prohibition on shooting live ammunition at stone throwers. Security forces have at their disposal less lethal means of dealing with demonstrations and with stone throwing, and the use of lethal weapons in such situations is permitted only under extreme circumstances when there is mortal danger and no reasonable alternative. B’Tselem also demanded that crowd control weapons like tear gas and rubber-coated bullets be utilized in accordance with open-fire regulations and in a manner that does not endanger human life … The serious injuries caused by direct hits from tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets are a direct result of existing practices among security forces, including the unlawful firing of these weapons, which B’Tselem has documented extensively in recent years: Soldiers and border policemen shoot aluminum tear gas canisters directly at people, although military regulations forbid it. In the last few years, two Palestinians have died and dozens have been injured by tear gas canisters fired directly at them. In addition, security forces fire rubber bullets at shorter ranges than permitted in the regulations and in a manner that makes it impossible to avoid injuring sensitive parts of the body”.

During the IDF Operation of Pillar of Clouds in Gaza, two Palestinians were killed in West Bank protests by live fire:
• “On Saturday, 17 November 2012, Rushdi a-Tamimi, age 31 and the father of one daughter, was injured by live firing by soldiers shooting at youths who threw stones at them in the village of a-Nabi Saleh. He died of his wounds on Monday, 19 November 2012.
• “On Monday, 19 November 2012, security forces killed Hamdi al-Fallah, age 22, during clashes in the area of the Halhul-Hebron bridge on Route 35. He was hit with four live bullets to the chest, arm and leg. An investigation by B’Tselem found that a-Fallah had pointed a laser pen at the soldiers, and that none of the stone throwers were armed.
At least 39 other Palestinians have been wounded by security forces since Thursday, 15 November 2012, during incidents in which Palestinians threw stones at the forces. Among them, 16 were injured by live fire – including six who were seriously injured. Thirteen Palestinians have been wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets – nine of them in the head; ten have been wounded by direct hits by teargas canisters – seven of these in the head”. This is posted here.

Jessica Montell –Executive Director of B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories — wrote in an OpEd published in the New York Times after the cease-fire that: “Gaza has still not recovered from the death and destruction wrought four years ago in Operation Cast Lead. Hopefully this cease-fire will ensure that civilians on all sides will be protected, and that those who target civilians or otherwise violate the laws of war must be held accountable. But civilians in Gaza need much more than that. Residents of this tiny, impoverished area have the right not only to survive – but to thrive. This requires that Israel lift its closure on the Gaza Strip. Even though import restrictions were all but lifted since 2010, Gaza factories, farms and businesses remain closed, largely due to Israeli restrictions on exports. The second component of the closure still in place is the complete isolation of Gaza from the West Bank, separating families, preventing access to hospitals as well as all of the normal ties between the two halves of the Palestinian territory. Ironically, the closure played a crucial role in the current militarization of Gaza. The tunnel economy assisted the Hamas government, which taxed goods smuggled through them, and enabled the stockpiling of weapons now used against Israel”. This is posted here.

B’Tselem describes its work this way: “As an Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law”.

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