The world watched as amplified violence broke out between Israel and Palestine, last year. The Associated Press recently released a report where they broke down the demographics of the people who were killed by Israeli airstrikes, last year. Those who are included in the report are people who had their homes hit by 247 airstrikes during Operation Protective Edge. The report is nothing less than shocking. The AP begins their report by saying:
“The youngest to die was a 4-day-old girl, the oldest a 92-year-old man.
They were among at least 844 Palestinians killed as a result of airstrikes on homes during Israel’s summer war with the Islamic militant group, Hamas.”
Breaking down the key findings of their investigation into demographics of those killed by Israeli airstrikes the AP reports:
“Children younger than 16 made up one-third of the total: 280 killed, including 19 babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of 1 and 5.
In 83 strikes, three or more members of one family died.
Among those killed were 96 confirmed or suspected militants — or just over 11 percent of the total though the actual number could be higher since armed groups have not released detailed casualty lists.
The remainder of the 240 dead were males between the ages of 16 and 59 whose names did not appear in connection with militant groups on searches of websites or on street posters honoring fighters.”
Launching military strikes targeted at civilian homes is a violation of international law. There is an exemption to that law though. When a military target occupies a “civilian” home then it is lawful to use military force, including airstrikes, against that target. Israel has claimed that since they were targeting Hamas militants their actions are justified.
Palestinians and human rights groups disagree with that though. They contend that Israel has not been transparent in their effort to let people know what targets the Israeli military was after during the airstrikes. Without that it information it is impossible to determine whether those civilians killed in the attacks would be considered “collateral damage” or not. Keep in mind as disturbing as the civilian death toll is, that number does not automatically constitute a violation of international law. Phillip Luther Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International said, last July regarding the issue of Israeli transparency:
“Unless the Israeli authorities can provide specific information to show how a home is being used to make an effective contribution to military actions, deliberately attacking civilian homes constitutes a war crime and also amounts to collective punishment against the families.”
The figures that the AP are reporting are horrific but they just show the results of the most recent instances of violence. Last summer, Vox created a map that shows the total number of people killed as a result of violence between Israel and Hamas since 2000. The data comes from B’Tselem, a Palestinian advocacy group, and the Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). You can see from the chart that not only is there an extreme disparity in the number of Palestinians to Israelis being killed, but that ratio is also increasingly growing wider over time.
Hamas would also be considered guilty of war crimes under international law. During the “fifty-day-war”, it has been reported that Hamas militants fired hundreds of rockets at Israel. Five civilians, including a four-year-old boy, died due to those rockets fired by Hamas.
These airstrikes are a big part why the International Criminal Court (ICC) is opening up a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel. Of course, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing everything in his power, including what could be construed as extortion, to stop the investigation from proceeding.
With this new report, evidence is quickly mounting against Israel. The deaths of over one hundred preschool aged children cannot be written off as “collateral damage” neither morally, or as it is becoming more and more apparent, legally under international law.