On 10 May 2021, terror groups based in Gaza began firing unguided rockets at Israeli civilians. Rocket fire continued overnight into Tuesday, and by Tuesday evening over 700 rockets had been launched. Responsibility for rocket attacks has been variously claimed by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, Al-Qaeda-linked Jaysh al-Umma and Fatah-linked Abdul Qadir al-Husseini Brigades.
Thanks to Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, many of these rockets were destroyed before causing serious damage or casualties, with the IDF claiming a successful interception rate of over 90 percent of projectiles heading toward populated areas. However, 2 people have been killed in Ashkelon – an elderly Israeli woman and her carer, a mother of 9 children. This evening another woman has been reported killed in south Tel Aviv. Over 90 Israelis have been injured in the attacks. A hospital and a school have been damaged.
Amnesty International, reporting on the 2014 Gaza war, said of rocket attacks from Gaza:
“all the rockets used by Palestinian armed groups, with ranges varying from 10km to 160km, are unguided projectiles that cannot be directed at specific targets. In other words, these weapons cannot be accurately aimed in a manner that distinguishes between military objectives and civilian objects, as required by international humanitarian law; they are inherently indiscriminate and using them is likely to injure and kill civilians and damage civilian objects. International humanitarian law prohibits the use of weapons that are by nature indiscriminate. Using prohibited weapons is a war crime.”
That report also noted “attacks by armed groups in Gaza launched from within residential areas were far from isolated occurrences” and said that Palestinians armed groups were “routinely locating military objectives and fighters in densely populated civilian neighbourhoods.” even though “significant areas… within the territory are not residential, and conducting hostilities or launching munitions from these areas presents a lower risk of endangering Palestinian civilians.”
The same applies to the rockets fired in the last 24 hours. These rocket launches represent war crimes: they are attacks on civilians and as can be seen in just two social media post examples here and here, they were launched from the heart of civilian residential areas in Gaza. This is a double war crime.
Around 6pm this evening, Qassam Brigades threatened to bomb Tel-Aviv if Israel continues strikes against ‘civilian’ infrastructure in Gaza. Shortly afterwards, a civilian bus was hit by a rocket in Holon, a suburb south of Tel Aviv. The bus was empty but several people nearby were injured. Suburbs north of Tel Aviv have also come under fire. Air traffic into and out of Israel has been halted, with incoming flights diverted to Cyprus.
In response to this sustained attack, the Israeli Air Force is undertaking airstrikes to neutralise rocket launch sites in Gaza. The targets include the home of a top Hamas commander, Hamas’s intelligence headquarters, two attack tunnels that came near the security barrier and rocket production and storage sites. According to the IDF, 15 Hamas commandos have been killed.
At least one third of rockets fired by militants have landed inside Gaza
Sadly there have also been civilian casualties in Gaza. At least one third of rockets fired by militants have landed inside Gaza. Three children and four adults from the same family were killed by a malfunctioning Hamas rocket that exploded in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza. At least one “child soldier”, an under-18 member of a Palestinian terror group, is understood to have been killed in Gaza – another Hamas war crime.
The IDF is cognisant of the difficulties of combating terror attacks launched from civilian communities, and goes to great lengths to adhere to the Laws of Armed Combat. This includes distinguishing “between the civilian population and combatant… This does not mean that civilians cannot be legally harmed or killed under the law only that civilians and civilian property should not be the object or the purpose of the attack.” It also includes the principle of proportionality, under which “the damage to civilians and their property cannot be excessive in relation to the military advantage gained”.
Ireland Israel Alliance hopes for an early end to hostilities, but recognises that Israel cannot let hours of rocket fire towards its citizens go unanswered.