This video made by Gaza physician Dr. Belal Dabour (@Belalmd12 on Twitter) captures the moment an Israeli air attack destroyed the home of the al-Habil family in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City this morning.
Thirty-one Palestinians were killed in overnight Israeli air attacks, bringing the death toll in Israel’s ongoing assault which began on Monday to 81.
According to Dabour, the al-Habil family received a call from the Israeli army at 7:15am telling them to immediately leave the house. About fifteen minutes later the house was destroyed in a massive explosion.
Israel has targeted dozens of homes of the families of persons Israel accuses of being involved in armed resistance, claiming that the warnings make such attacks permissible.
Targeting homes “main cause of civilian casualties”
No one was injured in this particular attack. However, the destruction of homes has resulted in a number of civilian deaths.
“The targeting and destruction of residential properties in Gaza is the main cause of civilian casualties,” according to a situation report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), covering 7-9 July, the first three days of the current Israeli assault.
An attack on the Kaware family home in Khan Younis on Tuesday killed seven civilians, including at least two children, and injured 28 other people, while an attack on the Hamad family home in Beit Hanoun resulted in the deaths of six civilians, according to PCHR.
By 9 July, some 150 homes had been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes, displacing about 900 people, according to OCHA. That number is certain to have risen significantly.
Dabour posted this video from inside the house after the bombing.
Israel now claims that the killings at the Kaware home were an “error.”
But PCHR points out that the deliberate destruction of homes is a violation of the laws of war and such homes cannot be considered “military objectives”:
Article 52(2) of Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions defines a military objective as: “those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.”
The Protocol adds: “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.”
“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,” PCHR states.
“From the facts of the cases documented,” says PCHR, “in the majority of instances there does not appear to be any military necessity justifying the destruction of Hamas or Islamic Jihad members’ homes. To date, no secondary explosions have been documented indicating that the houses were used for weapons storage.”
PCHR says it is “forced to conclude that the houses are being destroyed as a ‘punitive’ measure, targeting members of Hamas and their families. PCHR notes that Israel has recently resumed its policy of punitive house demolitions in the West Bank. This appears to be a continuation of the Dahiya doctrine, whereby civilian suffering is deliberately caused in order to act as a deterrent. This doctrine was developed during the 2006 Lebanon War, and continued during Operation Cast Lead,” Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza which killed more than 1,400 people.
Punitive home demolitions and other wanton destruction of property constitute war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Dabour also tweeted additional images of the aftermath of the bombing: