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Special Focus: Widespread Israeli Aerial Incursions in the Gaza Strip (Reporting Period: 25-26 March 2019)

Tuesday, 02 April 2019 15:03 Date: 2 April 2019
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Destruction of Al-Multazem Insurance Company office and Al-Ghazali building in Gaza City as a result of Israeli airstrikes, taken on 26 March 2019. Photo: Al-Haq (c) 2019.Between Monday and Tuesday, 25-26 March 2019, the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) launched widespread aerial incursions across the occupied Gaza Strip, destroying military and civilian properties, and injuring two Palestinians. According to Al-Haq’s field documentation and follow-up, Israel’s airstrikes began on Monday, 25 March 2019, at around 5:40 pm, when Israeli warplanes launched large-scale airstrikes on civilian buildings, alleged security targets, in addition to sites allegedly belonging to the Palestinian resistance in various parts of the Gaza Strip.

According to reports of the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, the aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip resulted in two injuries to Palestinians, both of which were treated at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Both injuries occurred following an Israeli airstrike targeting a site east of Al-Shuja’iyah neighbourhood and another airstrike targeting the office of Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City.

During the incursion, the Gaza Strip was forced to go into emergency mode, the Palestinian Health Ministry having announced a state of emergency in all hospitals in the Gaza Strip, in anticipation of Israeli attacks. In addition, the Education Ministry interrupted schools and higher education programmes across the Strip, the Palestinian Monetary Authority issued a decision to close the banks, while the Interior Ministry emptied security and police stations and ministries in response to the escalation.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli escalation in the Gaza Strip, early last week, came at the same time as the occupation authorities escalated attacks against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, especially in Al-Naqab and Megiddo prisons, in addition to the assaults on Palestinian prisoners leading to injuries amongst a number of them, some of whom required hospitalisation as a result.[1] In addition, the escalation occurred in parallel to the announcement by United States (US) President Donald Trump of the US’s recognition of full Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan, in violation of international law.[2]

The aerial incursions in the Gaza Strip by the IOF come after an unclaimed launching of a rocket on Monday morning on a house north of Tel Aviv, according to the spokesperson of the Israeli army, which wounded seven Israelis, according to Israeli media sources.[3] On the same day, the IOF closed down Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) commercial checkpoint in the southern Gaza Strip, also closing Beit Hanoun (Erez) checkpoint in the northern Gaza Strip, which is used for the movement of individuals. The same afternoon, in a further measure of collective punishment, the IOF closed off the sea to fishermen in the Gaza Strip until further notice.

After 10:00 pm, on Monday evening, 25 March 2019, Egyptian and United Nations (UN) mediation efforts of the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nikolai Mladenov, succeeded in reaching a ceasefire agreement to end the escalation between the Palestinian resistance factions and the IOF, although the airstrikes and mutual firing continued until the early hours of Tuesday morning, 26 March 2019.[4]

        1. IOF Airstrikes across the Gaza Strip between 25 and 26 March 2019

According to Al-Haq’s field monitoring and documentation, Israeli military aircrafts launched airstrikes starting at approximately 5:40 pm on Monday evening, 25 March 2019. The IOF fired missiles at two locations, including the Askalan military site belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, which was targeted with seven missiles, in addition to the targeting of a naval site northwest of Beit Lahia. The IOF’s military aircrafts also fired three missiles at a naval post belonging to the Nasser Salah Eddin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Movement in the northern Gaza Strip.

In addition, IOF missiles landed in empty agricultural lands in Deir Al-Balah, in the Central Governorate, and in Khan Younis and in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Later, missiles also landed in agricultural lands in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, and in Gaza City, near Jabal Al-Rayes, where a number of residents were targeted east of Al-Shuja’iyah neighbourhood, east of Gaza City, without any reports of injuries.

Between 6:40 pm and 7:55 pm, IOF warplanes launched four consecutive missile attacks at the three-storey Al-Ghazali building housing the Al-Multazem Insurance Company, located in Al-Rimal neighbourhood in the centre of Gaza City, resulting in the complete destruction of the building and that of another residential building adjacent to it, also belonging to the Al-Ghazali family.

The attack was followed by the targeting, with five consecutive missile strikes, at approximately 7:30 pm, of Qasr Al-Hakim, the headquarters of the Internal Security Apparatus of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, located in the Ansar area, west of Gaza City. The building was completely destroyed in less than ten minutes. In addition, the airstrikes led to the destruction of the four-storey Hassouna residential building, which housed eight apartments.

IOF warplanes further fired two missiles at a military site belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. Meanwhile, the Palestinian resistance fired rockets towards Israel in defence against Israel’s military incursions and continued airstrikes and the destruction of civilian property, security buildings, and sites belonging to the resistance.

 At approximately 8:30 pm, IOF warplanes launched around four missile strikes targeting the office of the head of Hamas’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, in Al-Nasr neighbourhood in Gaza City, leading to the complete destruction of the office and resulting in damages to the nearby building of the Palestinian Association for Development and Reconstruction (PADR).

Israeli warplanes also fired missiles onto agricultural land in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, and towards two field observation points, east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis.

       2. Airstrikes in Gaza City: Military and Civilian Properties Targeted and Destroyed

On 25 March 2019, at approximately 6:40 pm, Israeli reconnaissance aircrafts targeted the office of Al-Multazem Insurance Company, located in the three-storey Al-Ghazali building, opposite the municipal park in central Gaza City, in addition to another building adjacent to it, also belonging to the Al-Ghazali family, which is located on a surface area of 662 square metres. The two buildings house six apartment units. The airstrikes completely destroyed both buildings, which were home to four families, including 29 individuals, amongst them 19 children and five women.

The owners of the first building, which contained the office of Al-Multazem Insurance Company, are Zuhair Taysir Kamel Al-Ghazali, 37, and his brother Muhammad Kamel Al-Ghazali, while the second building is owned by the sons of the late Kamel Al-Ghazali. According to Zuhair Taysir Al-Ghazali, the Israeli intelligence had called him from a private number at around 6:15 pm that day, telling him to immediately empty both buildings of their residents, before the IOF targeted the office of Al-Multazem Insurance Company with four missiles, including two F16 missiles, which destroyed both buildings entirely.

At approximately 6:55 pm, an IOF reconnaissance aircraft targeted a number of Palestinian civilians in the Al-Muntar hill area, east of Al-Shuja’iyah neighbourhood, resulting in the injury to a Palestinian citizen with shrapnel, who was then taken to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City for treatment.

Between 7:20 pm and 7:35 pm, IOF warplanes carried out five consecutive missile attacks at the headquarters of the Internal Security Apparatus (Qasr Al-Hakim) belonging to the Palestinian Interior Ministry and located in the Ansar area, west of Gaza City. In addition, IOF aircrafts targeted the Hassouna residential building, a four-storey building containing eight apartments of 300 square metre surface areas, located next to the Internal Security Apparatus headquarters. Notably, the Internal Security Apparatus rents storage spaces in Hassouna residential building, which housed nine families, including 41 residents, amongst them 25 children and nine women.

According to Zahdi Shahin, a resident of Hassouna building, the IOF called him before shelling the headquarters of the Internal Security Apparatus (Qasr Al-Hakim) at around 7:00 pm and ordered him to empty the building of all its residents. Then IOF warplanes targeted the headquarters of the Internal Security Apparatus and Hassouna residential building, destroying them both entirely.

At approximately 7:35 pm, IOF aircrafts fired a missile towards an empty area east of Al-Shuja’iyah neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City. No injuries were reported.

Then, at approximately 8:20 pm, the IOF fired two missiles at the office of Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, located in Al-Nasr Street, behind Al-Suwaidi clinic, next to the Sharia Judicial Council, northwest of Gaza City. IOF warplanes fired two F16 missiles, destroying the building entirely. The shelling also caused material damage to the office of the Palestinian Association for Development and Reconstruction (PADR) and a number of nearby houses, and resulted in one light injury.

At approximately 9:00 pm, IOF warplanes fired two missiles towards an empty plot of land, near Jabal Al-Rayes area, east of Al-Tuffah neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City. No injuries were reported.

At approximately 5:15 am on Tuesday, 26 March 2019, IOF warplanes targeted a naval site belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades, located next to Al-Baidar Resort, southwest of Gaza City. No injuries were reported.

Then, at approximately 5:25 am, IOF warplanes fired two missiles at Al-Bader site, also belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades, located in Netzarim area, southwest of Gaza City. No injuries were reported.

         3. Airstrikes in the North Gaza Governorate

At approximately 5:30 pm on Monday, 25 March 2019, IOF warplanes fired three missiles at a naval site belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades in the northwest of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip. At the same time, the IOF targeted the Askalan military site belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades, also located in the northwest of Beit Lahia. No injuries were reported as a result of the shelling.

At approximately 5:35 pm of the same day, the IOF fired three missiles at a naval site, belonging to the Nasser Salah Eddin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Movement, located northwest of Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, while no injuries were reported.

At approximately 7:20 pm, the IOF fired three missiles towards an empty plot of land near the agricultural school, north of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip.

At approximately 7:25 pm, the IOF fired seven consecutive missiles towards a military site belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades, located in Khalil Al-Wazir Street in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. The airstrikes resulted in slight damages to surrounding houses to the east of the site. In addition, the Beit Hanoun Sports Club to the west of the site was further damaged, while the shelling completely destroyed the adjacent Omar Bin Abdul Aziz Mosque, located to the north of the site.

At approximately 10:20 pm, IOF warplanes fired towards an empty plot of land belonging to the Dabour family, located behind the Civil Administration site, east of Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.

Then, at approximately 1:35 am on Tuesday, 26 March 2019, IOF warplanes launched three missile attacks at the Hittin site belonging to the Al-Quds Brigades, north of Burat Abu Samra in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip. Another airstrike was carried out on the same site, about an hour later, while no injuries were reported.

In addition, at approximately 2:25 am, on Tuesday, 26 March 2019, the IOF targeted an observation point belonging to the Palestinian resistance, located northwest of Beit Lahia, and at approximately 3:00 am, the IOF shelled an empty area northwest of Beit Lahia with no injuries having been reported.

        4. Airstrikes in the central and southern areas of the Gaza Strip

Starting 6:00 pm, on Monday, 25 March 2019, the IOF carried out a number of airstrikes targeting agricultural lands, sites belonging to the resistance and to the field control, and the fishermen’s port in the central and southern parts of the Gaza Strip, resulting in material damage to the targeted sites, while no injuries were reported.

Khan Younis Governorate

On 25 March 2019, at approximately 6:10 pm, the IOF fired at least one missile at agricultural land in Al-Zana area, east of Khan Younis. The missile exploded in the area, without reports of injuries, while the shelling caused panic amongst the local Palestinian population.

Destruction of Ismail Haniyeh’s office in Gaza City as a result of Israeli airstrikes, taken on 26 March 2019. Photo: Al-Haq (c) 2019.At approximately 8:35 pm, the IOF fired one missile at a field control site east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, destroying the site but resulting in no injuries.

At approximately 9:45 pm, IOF warplanes fired at least two missiles towards the fishermen’s port on the Khan Younis shore, destroying two fishing boats belonging to the Naval Police and resulting in partial damage to seven fishing boats, fishing nets and equipment belonging to fishermen in the area. No injuries were reported.

On 26 March 2019, at approximately 2:15 am, the IOF, positioned on the Gaza side of the fence, east of Khan Younis, fired one missile at an observation point belonging to the resistance factions east of Khan Younis, resulting in the site’s destruction. No injuries were reported.

Central Governorate

On 25 March 2019, at approximately 6:20 pm, IOF aircrafts fired at least two missiles towards an empty plot of land, east of Deir Al-Balah in the Central Governorate. No injuries or damages were reported.

At approximately 11:15 pm, IOF warplanes fired at least two missiles towards a site belonging to one of the resistance factions, west of Deir Al-Balah in the Central Governorate, causing damage to the site, while no injuries were reported.

On Tuesday, 26 March 2019, at approximately 4:40 am, the IOF fired at least two missiles towards a site belonging to one of the resistance factions, southwest of Deir Al-Balah in the Central Governorate, resulting in damage to the site, while no injuries were reported.

At approximately 4:50 am, the IOF fired three missiles, including two reconnaissance aircrafts, towards a site belonging to the Palestinian resistance, located on Salah Al-Din Street in Deir Al-Balah, causing extensive destruction to the site. No injuries were reported.

Rafah Governorate

In the Rafah Governorate, the IOF launched airstrikes on Monday, 25 March 2019, at approximately 6:20 pm, firing at least one missile towards agricultural land, east of Al-Shawka town, east of Rafah. The missile exploded in the area without reports of injuries, while the airstrike led to panic amongst the local residents.

           5. Conclusion

Between 25 and 26 March 2019, the IOF carried out widespread aerial incursions in the Gaza Strip, injuring two Palestinians, and destroying both military and civilian properties, including residential and office buildings, a mosque, property of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, and the fishermen’s port in Khan Younis, in addition to sites belonging to the Palestinian resistance. Al-Haq recalls that under international humanitarian law applicable in the occupied Gaza Strip, “[a]ny destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”[5]

Al-Haq notes that, while precautions seem to have been taken by the IOF in a couple of the incidents described in this special focus, including on two reported occasions where the Israeli occupying authorities called the owner or resident of the targeted residential site, ordering them to evacuate the building immediately, it is difficult to see how the destruction of these civilian properties, including residential and office buildings, and the destruction of fishermen’s boats in Khan Younis, can be justified by military necessity. Accordingly, Al-Haq stresses that Israel, as Occupying Power, has an obligation to ensure an effective remedy for Palestinian civilians whose property was unlawfully destroyed or damaged as a result of the airstrikes carried out between 25 and 26 March 2019, and that compensation must be paid to the individuals affected.

[1] Al-Haq, “Al-Haq Sends Urgent Letter to ICRC Regarding Health Conditions of Injured Palestinian Prisoners in Al-Naqab Prison” (26 March 2019), available at:

http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/civil-and-social-rights/1378-al-haq-sends-urgent-letter-to-icrc-regarding-health-conditions-of-injured-palestinian-prisoners-in-al-naqab-prison.

[2] Al-Haq, “Al-Haq Condemns US Decision to Unlawfully Recognise Israeli Sovereignty over the Occupied Syrian Golan” (28 March 2019), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/targets/third-party-states/1380-al-haq-condemns-us-decision-to-unlawfully-recognise-israeli-sovereignty-over-the-occupied-syrian-golan.

[3] Yaniv Kubovich, Jack Khoury, Almog Ben Zikri, Noa Landau, Bar Peleg and Josh Breiner, “Israel Strikes 100 Targets in Gaza in Response to Rockets Fired at Tel Aviv” (30 March 2019), available at: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/rocket-alerts-blare-in-tel-aviv-1.7022326.

[4] Yaniv Kubovich, Jack Khoury, Almog Ben Zikri, Bar Peleg, Noa Landau and Amos Harel, “Live Updates Hamas Chief Says Israel 'Got the Message' After Morning of Tense Cal Haaretz” (27 March 2019), available at: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/despite-reports-of-cease-fire-israel-and-gaza-continue-to-exchange-limited-blows-1.7061922.

[5] Article 53, Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).

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