The Civilian Toll of Israel’s Bombs

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Abu Mohammed’s home is opposite the bombed Ministry of Interior complex; his family of 15 are homeless.

first published at IPS –By Eva Bartlett  (**blog version longer than published)

When Israeli bombs struck the Abu Khadra complex for civil administration, they also gutted the sixth floor of the Abu Shabaan complex, located ten metres across the road. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), eight Israeli warplane-fired bombs levelled roughly half of the government compound in eastern Gaza City in the early hours of Nov. 21.

The bombings also took a considerable toll on the homes and businesses nearby, including the Gaza bureau of Al Jazeera.

Over 50 percent of the private medical centre in the Abu Shabaan building was destroyed, says Dr. Naim Shariff (42), owner of the Benoon In Vitro Fertilisation clinic.

Two weeks after the bombing tore apart the sixth floor and ravaged the fifth floor, Shariff has re-paned the windows, ordered new specialised machinery, and re-opened for clients.

“The problem with replacing my machines and equipment is that most of it doesn’t exist in Gaza. It takes months to arrive and costs more money than it would elsewhere,” he says.

“What else can I do but start again? There’s no insurance here for war damages.”

Three floors down, a privately-run dentist’s office has replaced broken windows and office glass, and installed a new reclining dental chair in place of the destroyed one.

“The walls were completely black before,” says Doa’a Moshaawi (32), a dentist. “Everything was damaged here, all the jars of medicine and instruments we use in our practice were destroyed.”

The blown out Abu Shabaan building, and the testimonies of its tenants, add to the mounting body of evidence that Israel’s bombing sprees in the Gaza Strip disproportionately affect civilian property, homes and lives.

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*The Abu Shabaan buildling, opposite the Abu Khadra complex, and view of bombed Abu Khadra from within Abu Shabaan building.

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*bombed Abu Khadra complex the day after 8 Israeli bombs levelled the compound and damaged neighbouring businesses and homes.

The Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks that will lead to “loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof”, all of which are inevitable in the overcrowded Gaza Strip.

Civilians in the line of fire

Around the corner and down the street a few hundred metres, Hani Lulu (60) watches as a labourer re-installs his sweets shop’s metal security door, blown off its hinges when Israeli bombs targeted the Saraya, Gaza’s main security complex, just opposite his building.

A year-old baby named Rama al-Shandi was killed in those blasts on Nov. 19, which also left four policemen and four civilians injured.

Lulu has learned from experience. During the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008-2009, Israel rained bombs down on the Saraya, causing extensive damage to surrounding residences and businesses.

“We left our home when the Israeli attacks on Gaza started this time,” he says, “so only our building was hurt, not us.”

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“The Israelis also bombed Saraya this year, in June,” says Lulu. Same damage. “We weren’t prepared for that bombing, it was all of a sudden, after 2 am.”

“They bomb in the middle of the night, the Israelis want to terrify our children and destroy Gaza,” says Abu Ziad, 60, a neighbour. “I didn’t know where to go when they stated bombing Saraya again. Where to go, where is safe?”

“There’s no reason to bomb here,” he says. “It’s only the civilians nearby that suffer. We’ve done nothing wrong but the Israelis bomb us.”

[Note: 10:11 am (Dec 4), as they tell their story, a loud, bomb-like sonic boom blast erupts nearby]

Abu Ziad: “From the start of the cease-fire they’ve continued terrorizing us.”

Thirty metres down the street, Um Abed Abu Shalah points out the remaining damage to her third floor apartment, less than twenty metres from a massive crater made from one of the Saraya bombings.

“We’ve replaced the broken windows and patched the wooden door, but the window frames are still warped and there are shrapnel holes throughout the apartment,” she says. On the opposite half of the apartment, far from the street facing the bomb blast, the solid wood door’s two large new center panels evidence how far the pressure of the bomb blast reached.

As with most in the area, when the escalation of Israeli bombings began on Nov 14, the Abu Shalah family left the home right away.

“We’re used to them bombing across from our home. This is the third time the Israelis have bombed the Saraya in the 4.5 years we’ve lived here,” she says.

“We’d just had a wedding celebration for my son when they bombed 5 months ago. Friends and family were here until late in the evening. Around 2 am, the Israelis bombed the Saraya. If people had still been here, there would have been many injuries.”

“I’d only just replaced the windows from the last bombing, hadn’t even paid for the new ones, and now I’ve had to replace them a third time,” says Um Abed.

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The Interior Ministry’s buildings in Tel el Howa, Gaza City, were bombed on two separate occasions on Nov. 16, according to PCHR, causing extensive damage to the surrounding homes, schools, and to the Al Quds hospital, which stands several hundred metres away.

According to the Ma’an News Agency, the blasts caused injuries to nearby Palestinian civilians.

Abu Mohammed (58) lives opposite the destroyed ministry complex. He and neighbours say the first round of four bombings occurred in the early morning hours.

Then, around 9:30 PM, Israeli warplanes struck the ministry again with another four bombs. This time, “it was like an earthquake”, according to Abu Mohammed.

A newly-built United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school and the nearby government-run public school less than ten metres from the ministry buildings were damaged, both with numerous rooms blown out.

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Five multi-storey apartment buildings across from the ministry are now mere skeletons, completely uninhabitable.

“What does this paper have to do with anything related to Israeli security?” Abu Mohammed asks, shaking a sheaf of papers he has pulled from the rubble. “They processed birth certificates, death and marriage certificates here (in the ministry). Passports, I.D. cards.”

“There were fifteen people living in my home. Where are we supposed to go?”

At the end of the row of destroyed homes stands a solemn Abu Yusef (42), soft-spoken but equally devastated.

“It was a civilian area, the Ministry provided papers for us. The salaried people working for the government are civilians,” he says.

“The Israelis had bombed this area before, so we knew that they’d do it again. They want to hit civilian areas.”

Over forty people lived in the three-story apartment in front of which Abu Yusef stands. A sofa pokes out of a gaping hole in the wall of a third-floor room.

“Cement was flying, steel was flying. For more than a half hour after the bombing, it was pitch black, no electricity. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t move an inch.”

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Gaza’s ministry of health reports that 174 Palestinians were killed, including 34 children, 11 women and 19 elderly. Roughly 1399 people were injured, including 465 children, 254 women, and 91 elderly.

The latest round of attacks on Gaza included the bombing of the Dalou family in their home, killing ten family members and two neighbours.

“Most of them arrived with their brain matter outside of their skulls,” Dr. Ayman el-Sahabani, head of Shifa hospital’s emergency department, tells IPS.

“The majority of injuries we dealt with included shrapnel throughout the body, haemorrhaging, multiple fractures, amputated lower or upper limbs, internal bleeding, damaged internal organs.”

“On the second day, I received an 11-month-old child who was 95 percent burned but still breathing. I couldn’t do anything for him, he died within twenty minutes.”

In the children’s ward of Shifa hospital, one week after being injured, Abdel Aziz Ashour, 6, recuperates from the Nov 20 Israeli bombing near his home in the Zeitoun district, which killed the 8 year old cousin and his grandfather. The blast fractured Ashour’s leg, as well as severing his femoral artery and studding his body with shrapnel.

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Four-year-old Reham Nabaheen didn’t survive the Nov. 21 drone attack outside her Nusseirat home. She was dead on arrival at the hospital, with shrapnel lodged in her brain.

With less than an hour to go before the Nov. 21 cease-fire was enforced, Nader Abu Mghaseeb (14) was en route to a shop to buy food for his younger siblings when he became the target of a drone strike in his eastern Deir al Balah village.

reham  reham2  Nader Abu Mghaseeb2

The vast majority of those killed and maimed were civilians who did not participate in resistance activities, proving that, again and again, Palestinian civilians are the primary targets of Israeli bombs.

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*(left) a bombed home on Salah el Din street; (centre and right) the bombed home of the Toma’a family, Deir al Balah

see also:

Gaza Quiz

“From October 30, 2012, until Nov. 10, 2012, there were a total of 2 rockets fired from Gaza, which fell in open areas causing no casualties or damage.

On November 4, Israeli forces shot and killed a 23 year-old mentally-challenged Palestinian walking approximately ten meters from the fence on the Gaza side. The Israeli military did not allow a Palestinian ambulance to retrieve the body for two hours.

On Nov. 8, Israeli troops operating within Gaza were fired on by Palestinians; Israeli fire killed a Palestinian boy.

On Nov. 10, Palestinian armed factions fired on an Israeli military vehicle patrolling on the Israeli side of the fence, injuring four soldiers. Israel responded by firing tank shells hitting a residential area, killing 5 civilians, including 2 children, and injuring 36 civilians, including 9 children.”

–Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union party: “Brothers! Beloved soldiers and commanders—preserve your lives! Don’t give a hoot about Goldstone! There are no innocents in Gaza, don’t let any diplomats who want to look good in the world endanger your lives[;] at any tiniest concern for your lives—Mow them!”

–Gilad Sharon, the son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, in the Jerusalem Post: “The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences….We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima—the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”

Palestinian Civilians Bear the Brunt of Unrelenting Bombings in U.S.-Backed Attack on Gaza

DCI concludes investigations – Children make up approximately 23 percent of fatalities in Gaza

U.N. Special Rapporteur Calls for Global Protection of Gaza Civilians from U.S.-Backed Israeli Assault

Questions of war crimes remain as Israel shifts explanation on strike that killed 10 people from same family

“Most” killed in Gaza “deserved it” even though they were children and civilians, says Israel’s Danny Ayalon

It’s Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves

Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza – What Really Happened

“99 percent of Israeli Air Force attacks during OCL hit targets accurately, while the goal of OCL was—in the words of the Goldstone Report, which was supported by scores of other human rights reports—to “punish, humiliate and terrorise” the Gazan civilian population.”

Russia Today: String of blasts in Gaza as Israel intensifies airstrikes:

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