Wed 12 Jun 2024 12:54 pm - Jerusalem Time

The human toll of Israel's operation in Nuseirat reinforces scrutiny of its violations of the laws of war

The human losses resulting from the Israeli detainee rescue operation last Saturday renewed questions about whether Israel is doing enough to protect civilians in its war on Gaza, according to a report by the Washington Post.

The raid, which took place during the day in the Nuseirat refugee camp, led to the release of four Israeli detainees, the killing of at least 274 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, and the injury of more than 600 citizens, most of them women and children, especially civilians who were recently displaced due to the Israeli military attack. In the southern city of Rafah.

Eyewitnesses said they were shocked by the scale and severity of the Israeli attack, even after eight months of brutal war, and that the carnage overwhelmed Gaza's crippled hospital system.

The report says: “Hamas held the Israeli prisoners under armed guard in the densely populated refugee camp, apparently in their family homes, which is consistent with the testimonies of former detainees who were released during the short-lived ceasefire in November.”

“Every civilian life lost in this war is a result of how Hamas operates,” Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, told ABC on Sunday, but international law experts insist that “Hamas’ tactics do not absolve Israel of legal responsibility, which requires... Military personnel must take all possible precautions to prevent harm to civilians. The principle of proportionality prohibits armies from inflicting losses on civilians that are excessive compared to the direct military advantage expected at the time of the strike.

“The fact that your opponent is violating international humanitarian law does not change your obligations,” Adel Haq, a law professor at Rutgers Law School, told the newspaper. “The expected harm to civilians was disproportionate to the legitimate objective of rescuing the four hostages.”

The Israeli army did not respond to questions about the measures taken to prevent harm to civilians during the operation. A spokesman for the Israeli police, whose counter-terrorism units played a major role in the raid, referred The Washington Post to the Israeli military.

The full extent of the devastation in Nuseirat is still unfolding, as Palestinian eyewitnesses share more details about the chaos that occurred that day.

Omar Mutawa, 22, was at home on Saturday when he heard the first blows, his brother Nasrallah, 30, told The Washington Post by phone Monday. Nasrallah said that Omar, a mechanic, rushed to help the injured.

Nasrallah said: “We did not know that the situation was this dangerous.”

Tanks and drones raged outside, as part of what a former Israeli commander described as a “wall of fire” — intended to provide cover for the military unit trying to move three male detainees to safety.

The Israeli army said in a statement, "The planes bombed dozens of military targets to make the operation a success."

About an hour later, during a period of relative calm, Nasrallah said he went to look for his brother, and found his flip-flops first. He said Omar was blown to pieces about 300 yards from his home.

In turn, Abdel Hamid Ghorab, a 33-year-old paramedic, was working a shift on Saturday at the Return Maternity Clinic, which workers had turned into a temporary hospital, housing patients and displaced families. He described "random and continuous shelling around the hospital with unprecedented intensity."

He added that people rushed in successive waves to retrieve the injured.

Ghorab said he helped transport more than 100 seriously injured patients — including children with missing or damaged limbs — to the larger Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where amputations can be performed.

He said: "All they cared about was carrying out the operation, even if it cost all these lives."

Israeli occupation army officials claimed that they "resorted to massive firepower only when one of the rescue teams came under fire from Hamas, and after an Israeli officer was injured in a gun battle with the militants. He later died of his wounds."

Officials said the IDF chose to carry out the raid during the day to maximize the element of surprise. This also meant that the narrow streets of Nuseirat were crowded with civilians.

The newspaper attributed to Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer specializing in international humanitarian law, that “the number of victims is sufficient to raise questions about whether the use of fire was indiscriminate.” "But we have to know exactly what happened."

He said the key question was “whether the targets were legitimate targets – was air power used on a potential military target, or was it an indiscriminate use of bombing in a densely populated area?”

Experts believe this question is unlikely to be answered until after the war ends, if ever, when investigators are able to reach Gaza. But Israel is already under increasing legal pressure over its behavior in Gaza. Last month, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced that he was seeking to issue arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Galant on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.


Share your opinion

The human toll of Israel's operation in Nuseirat reinforces scrutiny of its violations of the laws of war