Israel acknowledged this week that it caused “unintended harm” to civilians when it conducted two airstrikes on a densely populated refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Dec. 24, killing dozens.
It comes as the reported death toll in Gaza surpasses 20,000, and international calls grow for Israel to scale back its assault on the territory.
Israel doesn’t often acknowledge civilian casualties
It was a rare admission of fault by the Israeli Defense Forces, which acknowledged the two strikes for the first time. Israel also recently said that the deaths of three hostages, who were fatally shot by Israeli forces while trying to escape Hamas captivity, “could have been prevented.” The dual admissions were evidence of accountability on the part of the IDF, a retired Israeli colonel said. “You need to make sure soldiers understand the depth of the actions that they take,” said Col. Miri Eisen, who now runs a counterterrorism think tank in Israel.
Israel’s ‘dumb bombs’ pose greater risk to civilian population
Israel used improper munitions that were not appropriate for the strike, according to an Israeli public broadcaster. Its military has faced criticism for using bombs that are either oversized or unguided “dumb bombs” that are less precise and pose a greater threat to civilians; CNN reported this month that 40 to 45% of the air-to-ground munitions Israel has used were unguided. “It is a massive civilian harm problem if they do not have that accuracy, and if you can’t even give a benefit of the doubt that the weapon is actually landing where the Israeli forces intended to,” an arms expert and Amnesty International advisor told the network.
Humanitarian crisis continues to worsen amid displacement
The strike came as Israel expanded its ground operation in central Gaza and said it was close to being in full control of northern Gaza. Civilians, meanwhile, were told to evacuate further south, with tens of thousands streaming into Rafah. However, Israel has struck several areas that it said were safe for civilians to evacuate to, according to multiple reports. An estimated 85% of Gazans have been displaced, overwhelming shelters and humanitarian organizations. The director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said people have built shacks along any available roadside space. “Some are sleeping in their cars, and others are sleeping in the open,” she said.