On Friday dawn, 15 March 2019, the Gaza Strip witnessed the most violent Israeli escalation in months, in which Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of airstrikes on various targets in the Gaza Strip.
For five hours, two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip lived in a state terror and fear due to the continuous Israeli airstrikes that targeted various locations; Some were in densely populated areas throughout the Gaza Strip. This happened amid a tide of incitement at political and military echelons in Israel.
According to PCHR’s fieldworkers, Israeli warplanes launched 51 missiles at 19 targets throughout the Gaza Strip. Some of those targets were struck more than once. Targets varied between civilian facilities, including a wedding hall, an office for Former Prisoners, and agricultural land, in addition to sites belonging to the Palestinian armed groups.
In one of the airstrikes, Mahmoud Hamdan Hammad Soe’ed (39) sustained moderate wounds and his pregnant wife Sabah ‘Omar Soe’ed sustained serious wounds and her hand was amputated after shrapnel fell on their house in Rafah due to an airstrike targeting a site that is only hundreds of meters away from their house.
In addition to the destruction resulting from the airstrikes in the targeted locations and the damage to nearby houses and facilities, the explosions caused panic and fear among civilians, especially women and children, as the explosions reminded them of the traumatic experiences they lived in the three offensives of 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014.
With this wide-scale tide of escalation, Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip found themselves again under disproportionate airstrikes, which is part of Israel’s collective punishment policy, after two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip over Tel Aviv with no injuries being reported.
The Palestinian factions denied responsibility for the two rockets fired into Israel and Ministry of Interior in Gaza stated, on Thursday, that “the rocket fire went “against the national consensus” and measures will be taken against the perpetrators.” However, after an emergency meeting last night, the Israeli government and security authorities decided to carry out a large-scale military operation against the Gaza Strip, indicating a political and security decision to carry out airstrikes, which falls within the collective punishment policy.
PCHR emphasizes that the continued Israeli attacks on populated residential areas and the use of weapons on the basis of collective retaliation constitute grave violations of the 1949 four Geneva Conventions, amounting to war crimes.
PCHR warns that the military escalation by the Israeli forces and the deterioration of the calm situation would exacerbate the difficult humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, with the continued impact of the three devastating offensives and tightening closure for 13 years.
PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop Israel’s crimes and reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the oPt.