Dismissing Video Evidence of Misfired Rockets, Palestinians Blame Israel for Civilian Deaths During Gaza Fighting
The war of words between Israel and Palestinian Islamist factions over the responsibility for casualties in Gaza during the three days of fighting last week escalated on Thursday, with Palestinians insisting that Israel bore full culpability for the loss of life.
A Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) spokesman angrily disputed Israeli claims that errant rockets from Gaza had resulted in the death of Palestinian civilians, asserting that “Israel began the military round and therefore it bears responsibility for all the results of that military round.”
“These are wrong and false allegations Israel is making to escape its responsibility for the killing of civilians and children,” the spokesman, Daoud Shehab, added.
Israel has said about 51 Palestinians, including 24 PIJ militants, were killed during the IDF’s targeting of positions belonging to the terror group, which ended on Monday with the announcement of a ceasefire. According to the Israeli authorities, 15 of those victims were killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.
More than 1,000 missiles were fired at Israel from Gaza during the fighting, most of which were either intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system or accidentally landed in Gaza itself. Among the videos and radar images released by Israel was one showing an Islamic Jihad rocket veering off course soon after being launched on Saturday, heading to the ground where it reportedly killed four children and one adult in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip.
Israel pinned the blame for the casualties on the PIJ by pointing to what it depicted as the terror group’s cavalier disregard for human life.
“Their disregard for human life was tragic — as multiple failed rocket launches led to the deaths of innocent Palestinian children in Gaza,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the Reuters news agency.
At least one US legislator also spoke out in defense of the Palestinian claims against Israel.
“My heart breaks for the dozens of Palestinians, including 16 children, killed by Israel in Gaza,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) tweeted Thursday. “Palestinians too deserve to live free from siege and bombardment. There must be accountability. Israel must end the blockade. And Congress must stop funding Israeli apartheid.”
International supporters of the Palestinians also weighed in on behalf of PIJ’s claims.
In a statement on Thursday, UN Human Rights Chief Michele Bachelet declared herself alarmed “at the high number of Palestinians, including children, killed and injured in the occupied Palestinian territory this year, including in intense hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza last weekend.”
The statement alleged that “a number of Israeli strikes hit prima facie civilian objects, causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects.” Accusing Israel of violating international humanitarian law, Bachelet stressed her view that “an attack which may be expected to incidentally kill or injure civilians, or damage civilian objects, in disproportionate manner to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited.”
Bachelet added that the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces in the West Bank was also a “violation of international human rights law.” She condemned what she called the “almost total lack of accountability … in the occupied Palestinian territory — whether for violations of international humanitarian law by all parties in hostilities in Gaza.”
Additional reporting by Reuters.