Israeli strike on Gaza home illegal, says HRW
(AP) / 8 December 2012
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - A leading human rights group on Friday accused Israel of violating the laws of war when it killed 12 civilians in an airstrike during its recent conflict with Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Israel’s army countered that Palestinian militants were to blame for hiding in civilian buildings.
Israel launched its air assault on Gaza last month to try to stop frequent rocket barrages at southern Israel. The conflict ended after eight days with an Egyptian-brokered truce.
During the fighting in mid-November, the Israeli air force attacked the home of the Daloo family in Gaza City, killing 10 family members — including women and children — and two other civilians.
A military spokesman initially said it was targeting a senior member of the Hamas armed wing, whom he identified as Yahia Abayah, but the military later announced the airstrike had killed Mohammed Daloo, calling him a Hamas militant.
Human Rights Watch said neither Abayah nor Daloo were listed as killed on the websites of Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s militant wings, which posts the names of its fighters killed in conflict.
The rights group said Daloo’s police commander said Daloo was a low-ranking civilian police officer serving in a unit that protects Gaza government figures and visiting officials, and was not a member of an armed group.
“Even if (the police officer) was a legitimate military target under the laws of war, the likelihood that the attack on a civilian home would have killed large numbers of civilians made it unlawfully disproportionate,” the Human Rights Watch said in a statement. The group called on Israel to explain why it targeted a home full of civilians.
In a statement on Friday, Israel’s army said the Daloo home was a hideout for a senior Hamas militant involved in rocket attacks. It did not name the militant.
The army said it worked to minimize noncombatant casualties, making phone calls to Gaza residents warning them of airstrikes in the area, dropping leaflets from warplanes instructing them to get away from Hamas operatives and broadcasting warning messages on the radio.