YORK - July 23 - Today's Israel Defense Forces air strike on a crowded Gaza apartment
building demonstrated a clear failure to take all feasible precautions to avoid
civilian casualties, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch condemned
the attack as a violation of international humanitarian law.
Thirteen civilians were reported killed and some 140 injured in the attack.
At least eight of the civilians killed were children. The intended target, Hamas
military leader Salah al-Shahada, was also killed, as another Hamas member reportedly
"An attack that killed thirteen civilians and injured scores was clearly
not carried out in a manner that minimized casualties. It should never have gone
ahead," said Joe Stork, Washington director of the Middle East and North
Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "In such a crowded civilian area,
these deaths and injuries were absolutely foreseeable."
According to Israeli media reports, both Defense Minister Benyamin Ben-Eliezer
and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved the operation, in which a United States-supplied
F-16 aircraft fired a missile into a residential apartment building in the al-Daraj
area of Gaza City. Gaza is one of the world's most densely populated areas.
The operation was part of the Israeli government's policy of assassinating
individuals it considers responsible for attacks against Israeli civilians and
military targets. Human Rights Watch has criticized Israel's "liquidation"
policy as a form of killing in circumstances when the suspect could have been
arrested. Human Rights Watch has on numerous occasions condemned Palestinian attacks
targeting civilians as violations of international law.