Yesterday Human Rights Watch (HRW) released important information detailing 18 separate airstrikes by drones and other aircraft during ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ in November 2012 which appeared to violate the laws of war. At least 43 civilians including 12 children were killed in the airstrikes.
The report provides rare detail into the impact of the use of Israeli drones but shockingly has so far received almost no media coverage. HRW gave the information to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) who told HRW that they were carrying out their own investigation into airstrikes during the operation which would be completed by the end of February. There is no indication as to whether this IDF report would be made public.
As we reported at the end of November, according to the IDF over 1,500 targets were attacked by Israeli forces during the eight-day military operation. HRW say there have been unable to investigate all of the airstrikes. Out of the 18 airstrikes detailed in the HRW report, at least seven appeared to involve aerial drones launching guided missiles, and at least four appeared to involve fixed-wing aircraft dropping aerial bombs. In the remaining attacks from the air, the type of aircraft or the munitions is not clear. HRW said
“Human Rights Watch field investigations found 14 strikes by aerial drones or other aircraft for which there was no indication of a legitimate military target at the site at the time of the attack. In four other cases, attacks may have targeted Palestinian fighters, but appeared to use indiscriminate means or caused disproportionate harm to civilians.”
It is important that the full report be read but in summary the report states:
Human Rights Watch investigations found that Israeli drone strikes on November 19 killed three men in a truck carrying tomatoes in Deir al-Balah, and a science teacher who was sitting in his front yard with his 3-year-old son on his lap, talking to an acquaintance – only the toddler survived, but was seriously wounded.
Other drone-launched missile attacks killed a 79-year-old man and his 14-year-old granddaughter in the family’s olive grove in Abasan; a farmer and his nephew as they were walking on a road near their olive trees in the Khan Yunis area; and a 28-year-old woman carrying a blanket in the yard of her home in the town of Khuza’a.
An aerial bomb destroyed the two-story cinderblock home of the Hijazi family in Jabalya on November 19, killing the father, two of his children ages 4 and 2, and wounding his wife and four other children.
An Israeli Hellfire missile struck a hospital in Gaza City on November 19, puncturing the roof and cutting electricity and water. There were no casualties. Hospitals are protected objects under the laws of war unless being used for military purposes and targeted after giving a warning.
Human Rights Watch’s field investigations of these attacks found no evidence of Palestinian fighters, weaponry, or other apparent military objectives at the time of the attack. Individuals who deliberately order or take part in attacks targeting civilians or civilian objects are responsible for war crimes.
There is much more detail in the full HRW report including statements from victims and witnesses. We urge all to read it and for these allegations of war crimes to be investigated and covered in the mainstream media.