The Guardian has published a searing investigative report (watch the video and be prepared to feel outrage) charging the widespread use of unmanned drones to attack Gazan civilians during the recent war. Given that the IDF itself notes the precision optics used in the drones which allow clear identification of, and discrimination among targets, the reporter charges that the IDF knowingly attacked civilians. Doing so constitutes a violation of the laws of war.
Here is the story of one particular attack on a Gazan family sipping tea in their courtyard:
Mounir al-Jarah slowly takes down the bricks he used to wall up the entrance to his sister’s courtyard. Inside, flesh still clings to the walls; blood-soaked furniture and family items lie broken and mangled.
Mounir’s eyes search around the old house as he recounts the events of 16 January, when a rocket fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle killed his sister, her husband and four of her children.
Sitting around drinking tea with the family in their small courtyard, Mounir heard the loud buzzing of an Israeli drone, clearly visible in the sky above. He went inside for a moment and, as he returned, he saw a ball of light hurtling down toward him. There was a loud explosion and he was thrown backward. He gathered himself and stumbled out into the courtyard, where he saw the scene he says will never leave him.
“We found Mohammed lying there, cut in half. Ahmed was in three pieces; Wahid was totally burnt – his eyes were gone. Wahid’s father was dead. Nour had been decapitated. We couldn’t see her head anywhere.”
All six members of the family had been blown to pieces, coating each wall of the narrow enclosure with blood and body matter.
“You cannot imagine the scene: a family all sitting around together and then, in a matter of seconds, they were cut to pieces. Even the next day we found limbs and body parts on the roof, feet and hands,” Mounir says.
Fatheya, 17, is one of the few surviving members of the family. Slipping further into grief-stricken madness, flitting from one horrific description to the next, she says: “There were rocks and dust and fire … It’s very difficult … I can’t, no matter how I try to explain my situation to you, picking up the pieces of my dead family … I couldn’t handle it, limbs and flesh all around me. What have we done to deserve this?”
There will be Israel pro-war apologists who attempt to explain away stories like this by claiming we’re only hearing the victims’ side of the story. But the Guardian reporter notes a ready and sure defense for Israel: let the IDF publish the videotapes the drone took during the attack to prove whether or not this family is hiding something. Tellingly, the IDF refused to respond to the Guardian’s report.
Apologists may also claim that this incident constitutes a single unfortunate error. The only problem with this excuse is that the Guardian counts 48 Gaza civilians killed in multiple drone attacks.
Hearing the IDF’s tepid defense is infuriating:
“The IDF operated in accordance with the rules of war and did the utmost to minimise harm to civilians uninvolved in combat. The IDF’s use of weapons conforms to international law.”
In the IDF world, when everyone else in the world sees blue, the IDF can not only claim to see green, but it can essentially bluff its way pretending that the rest of the world is wrong in seeing blue and that only it can see the true color is green. In the end, it doesn’t matter that it is blue, since the IDF acts as if it is green and nothing can dissuade it of that fact.
Clearly, the IDF is lying through its teeth. It deliberately murdered civilians not only in this case, but many others documented both here and the world media. It did nothing to minimize harm to civilians. In fact, its rules of engagement gave unprecedented leeway to attack targets whether they be military or civilian. The Dany Zamir-Oranim IDF testimonies make this abundantly clear.
Further, Amira Hass reported recently the retrieval of an Israeli commander’s combat briefing notes from a destroyed Gaza home. Among the telling facts revealed is that troops were directed to fire on unarmed Palestinian civilian resucers. In fact, at least 18 such medics were killed during the war BECAUSE they were deliberately targeted. Such attacks on rescue personnel, documented during the war, caused numerous civilian victims to die of untended wounds. The officer’s notes also seem to indicate that soldiers were directed to shit in the houses, as he writes. Gazans have widely reported that their homes, when they weren’t destroyed outright, were trashed. Soldiers’ feces and urine were left as souvenirs for the survivors to find when they returned. Earlier reports by soldiers indicate that they spat on personal family photographs in the homes which they commandeered, thus leaving a charming momento of their stay.
I find it humorous (in a dark, bleak sort of way) that the IDF attempts to explain this away by claiming that soldiers bivouacing in Gazan homes were told to relieve themselves in places in which they would not be endangered, which meant that sometimes soldier’s did so in unsanitary ways. Yeah, right. Apparently, they’ve never gone on a backcountry camping trip in which you pack out everything you brought in, including your own waste.
The Guardian also reports that Human Rights Watch is now calling for a war crimes investigation of the IDF’s use of white phosphorus in Gaza.
War crimes were committed in Gaza. While I would consider Palestinian shelling of civilians leading to Israeli deaths also to be war crimes which merit investigation and charges, the overwhelming preponderance of criminality lies on the Israeli side. The UN is currently considering opening an investigation into such charges. I believe it is urgently necessary for Israelis and Diaspora Jews to join this call and insist on an independent investigation of Gaza war crimes. Let us give the Israeli government the opportunity to mount a full-fledged investigation (independent of the IDF). If it chooses not to do so, the UN must step in and do the job.
I would be willing to join with other bloggers and peace activists on such a campaign.