Satellite images show flattened buildings and plumes of smoke in Gaza City, Gaza, after airstrikes from Israel.
Israel has leveled multiple buildings in Gaza this week, claiming the buildings were used by Hamas, a militant group based in the territory.
This photo shows a multistory building in Gaza City completely leveled:
This photo shows the view over southern Israel and Gaza:
And this photo shows smoke rising after buildings in Gaza City were destroyed by airstrikes:
All photos were taken on May 12, 2021.
Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based militant group, have exchanged air attacks this week, with Israel launching airstrikes and Hamas firing hundreds of rockets.
Most of the casualties have been on the Palestinian side. At least 103 people – including 27 children – have been killed in the past four days, Reuters reported Friday, citing Palestinian medical officials.
As Insider’s John Haltiwanger reported, human-rights groups are questioning whether Israel’s targeting of large buildings violates international law.
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz suggested on Thursday that the strikes would escalate: “The army will continue to attack to bring a total, long-term quiet. Only when we reach that goal will we be able to speak about a truce.”
Israeli airstrikes have targeted and leveled multiple apartment buildings in Gaza amid escalating violence in the region this week, and top human rights groups have warned these actions could amount to war crimes.
“Deliberate targeting of civilian objects and extensive, unjustified destruction of property are war crimes. Destroying entire multi-storey homes making tens of families homeless amounts to collective punishment of the Palestinian population and is a breach of international law,” Saleh Higazi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
“Even if part of a building is being used for military purposes Israeli authorities have an obligation to choose means and methods of attack that would minimize risks posed to civilians and their property,” Higazi added.
Similarly, B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights group, in a tweet said, “Bombing apartment towers, which are not a military target and leaving dozens of families homeless, is a war crime.”
Israel has said it’s targeting buildings where Hamas stores weapons or has offices, and the Israeli military said it warned civilians to evacuate before the strikes.
As the Israeli military has pummeled Gaza with airstrikes, Hamas has fired rockets toward civilian areas in Israel. Rights groups also say this can qualify as a war crime.
“Firing rockets which cannot be accurately aimed into populated areas can amount to a war crime and endangers civilian lives on both sides of the Israel/Gaza border,” Higazi said.
Higazi said the recent escalation of violence is “reminiscent of horrific hostilities from 2008, 2012, and 2014 where civilians bore the brunt of the suffering, with massive death and destruction in Gaza, which has been under an illegal blockade amounting to collective punishment since 2007.” She added that both Israeli and Palestinian forces have “carried out war crimes and other violations with impunity.”
“Israel has a deplorable record of carrying out unlawful attacks in Gaza killing and injuring civilians including war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Higazi said. “Palestinian armed groups have also committed violations of international humanitarian law with impunity.”
Human Rights Watch, which has referred to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as a form of apartheid, has also condemned Hamas for firing rockets at areas populated by civilians.
“Such attacks, which are inherently indiscriminate and endanger the lives, homes, and properties of tens of thousands of Israeli civilians, are war crimes,” Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, wrote on Tuesday. Shakir also warned that Israel’s targeting of residential buildings in Gaza, where more than 2 million Palestinians live in a relatively small strip of territory, is “likely to harm civilians.”
Human Rights Watch has documented the “regular use of excessive and vastly disproportionate force by Israeli authorities,” including “deliberately targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure,” over the past decade and even before, Shakir said.
The International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor has warned that she’s monitoring the fighting for potential war crimes, on top of continuing investigations into possible violations from previous flare-ups in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.
As of Thursday evening, the death toll from this week’s fighting has risen to 103 Palestinians, including 27 children and 11 women, Gaza’s health ministry said, per the Associated Press. Seven Israelis have been killed, including a soldier and child.
President Joe Biden on Thursday said he has not seen a “significant overreaction” of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has included devastating airstrikes that have leveled buildings and killed dozens.
“One of the things that I have seen thus far is that there has not been a significant overreaction,” Biden said during a press briefing, adding that the goal is to see a reduction in rockets flying in to Israel from Gaza.
As the region witnesses the worst violence seen since the 50-day war in 2014, the Israeli military has been pummeling Gaza with airstrikes – in some cases leveling apartment buildings – as Hamas and other militant groups fire hundreds of rockets toward Israel.
Israel has rebuffed any discussions of a ceasefire and vowed to continue the offensive.
At least 83 people in Gaza have been killed so far, including 17 children, per BBC News, while at least seven Israelis have been killed. The International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor has warned she’s monitoring the fighting for potential war crimes.
Israel on Thursday prepared ground troops along the border with Gaza, raising the possibility of an invasion. This came as riots and violence between Jews and Arabs filled the streets of several Israeli cities, moving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn against “lynching.”
After a phone call with Netanyahu, Biden on Wednesday defended Israel’s right to self-defense and condemned Hamas over the rocket attacks. The president did not express concern about Israeli military tactics or the rising death toll on the Palestinian side.
“Israel has the right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory,” Biden told reporters. “My hope is that we’ll see this coming to a conclusion sooner than later.”
He was subsequently criticized by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who said Biden’s remarks dehumanized Palestinians and lacked important context on what catalyzed the bloodshed.
Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and general treatment of Palestinians, which rights groups have increasingly decried as a form of apartheid, remain at the heart of the tensions fueling the violence. The historically contentious dynamic has been exacerbated more recently via planned evictions of Palestinians out of a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, as well as an Israeli police raid on Monday at an important Muslim holy site amid Ramadan.
With no permanent US ambassador in Israel, Biden was in many ways unprepared for the recent violence in the region. The State Department on Wednesday announced it was “immediately” sending an envoy to the region as part of an effort to deescalate tensions.
The Times of Israel and Israeli media, cited by Reuters, described the crowd as a mob of far-right Israelis. The Times of Israel said they beat the man until he lay motionless on the ground.
Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital said in a statement that “The victim of the lynching is seriously injured but stable,” according to The Guardian.
According to Reuters, eyewitnesses told Israeli media that the car’s driver tried to run them over.
The driver’s identity has not been released, and his motives while driving was not clear.
Deadly clashes have taken place between Jewish settlers, the Israeli military, and Palestinians in the past week. Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based militant group, exchanged air attacks this week, killing at least 83 people in Gaza and seven in Israel.
A Palestinian-American journalist said Twitter asked her to delete some tweets while she was reporting live from the West Bank.
Mariam Barghouti told Motherboard that Twitter asked her to remove some tweets.
“To be frank I’m not sure which tweets, I was at a demonstration being chased by Israeli military jeeps along with hundreds of Palestinians near Ramallah,” she told Motherboard.
Barghouti’s account was also temporarily restricted on Tuesday. Barghouti posted to her Instagram Story screenshots of a message from Twitter saying that she had violated the company’s media policy.
According to Motherboard, Barghouti had been on the ground covering protests against the planned evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The expulsions stoked longstanding tensions between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza militant group. On Monday and Tuesday, Israeli forces carried out airstrikes in Palestinian territories, and Hamas fired rockets at Israeli cities.
Twitter later told Motherboard that her account was restricted by accident.
“We took enforcement action on the account you referenced in error. That has since been reversed,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
In an Instagram Story, Barghouti said in response: “Twitter said it was a mistake. I think I just have more visibility than other accounts.”
This is what her account looked like while restricted:
According to Motherboard, she had tweeted shortly before her account was restricted: “I feel like I’m in a war zone in Beit El. Israeli keeps just went full forces with hundreds of teargas canisters shot.”
The Israel Defense Forces released a stunning video of its Iron Dome defense system filling the sky with interceptors as more than 100 rockets rained down on Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening.
Tensions between Israel and Hamas spiked sharply this week as militants started firing rockets into Israel Monday evening, prompting Israel to retaliate with airstrikes. The fighting, which looks to be some of the most intense since a 2014 conflict, has already left dozens dead, the Associated Press reported.
Although there have been losses on both sides, the majority of the casualties have been on the Palestinian side. The dead have included both combatants and civilians.
During the fighting Tuesday, an Israeli airstrike hit a high-rise building. “We expect that this powerful attack on the high-rise building, which shook all of Gaza, will lead to extensive shooting toward Israel,” an IDF spokesperson said, according to Haaretz.
“The Al-Qassam Brigades has launched the largest missile strike on Tel Aviv and its environs, with 130 missiles, in response to the enemy’s targeting of civilian high-rises,” Hamas said in a statement Tuesday evening, The Times of Israel reported.
The IDF posted its defense of the city on Twitter.
Israel’s Iron Dome defense system is a counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) and short-range air defense system designed to intercept rockets and artillery. The system has been in use since 2011 and has helped reduce casualties from rocket attacks against Israeli cities.
The air defense system was developed by Israeli defense firms Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries with support from the US. It works alongside the David’s Sling and Arrow interceptors, which are in place to counter medium- and long-range threats.
The recent escalation in violence, coming during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, is driven by a number of historic and immediate factors.
Longstanding territorial control issues remain at the center of much of the animosity, but more recently, the planned evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood located in East Jerusalem has stoked tensions and sparked demonstrations.
Prior to the latest exchange of fire, Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Police fired fired rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas in the compound, Reuters reported. While 21 officers were wounded, over 300 Palestinians were injured in the process, according to Palestine Red Crescent Society.
At least 28 people were killed by the Israeli airstrikes Tuesday, including 10 children and a woman, the Associated Press reported. At least three Israelis have been killed by the barrage of rockets fired by militant groups in Gaza, and at least 10 more were injured.
“Any loss of civilian life is deeply lamentable, whether it is an Israeli life or a Palestinian life. That is why we continue to call for calm, continue to call on all sides to de-escalate and exercise restraint,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned Israel would “increase both the intensity of the attacks and the rate of attacks.” In a later statement, he said that Hamas “will pay a very heavy price for their belligerence.”
Progressive Democrats on Monday called out the Biden administration for promoting Israel’s right to self-defense as the Israeli military pummeled parts of Gaza with airstrikes in response to rocket attacks from militant groups.
The Israeli airstrikes killed 26 people, including nine children, per the Associated Press. Most of the rockets launced by militants in Gaza were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, but six people were injured in a direct hit on an apartment building. The rockets were fired by Hamas, which controls Gaza, and other militant groups.
Discussing the situation at a press briefing on Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price called for “calm.”
“While we urge de-escalation on all sides, we also recognize Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and to defend its people and its territory. It is critical for all sides to ensure calm and de-escalate tensions and avoid violent confrontations,” Price said.
‘He can’t even condemn the killing of children’
Responding to Price’s remarks in a tweet, Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said, “Is @StateDeptSpox really refusing to condemn the killing of Palestinian children?”
Similarly, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota tweeted, “This unsurprising response is devoid of empathy and concern for human suffering. He can’t even condemn the killing of children.”
When asked about the reports of civilian deaths due to Israeli airstrikes during Monday’s briefing, Price said, “These reports are just emerging … I understand we don’t have independent confirmation of facts on the ground yet, so I’m very hesitant to get into reports that are just emerging.”
“Obviously, the deaths of civilians, be they Israeli or Palestinians, are something we would take very seriously,” Price added.
Monday also saw Israeli police raid the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites, injuring over 300 Palestinians in the process, according to Palestine Red Crescent Society. Police – who said 21 officers were injured during the raid – fired fired rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas in the compound, Reuters reported.
Tensions stoked by historic and more immediate factors
The recent escalation in violence has been fueled by a convoluted array of factors, both historic and more recent. Israel’s decadeslong occupation of Palestinian territories remains at the heart of the issue. More immediately, the planned evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem has led to demonstrations and increased tensions.
Progressives in Congress have spoken out against the impending evictions.
“We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem,” Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted over the weekend. “Israeli forces are forcing families from their homes during Ramadan and inflicting violence. It is inhumane and the US must show leadership in safeguarding the human rights of Palestinians.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in a tweet called on the US to “speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and make clear that the evictions of Palestinian families must not go forward.”