After 10 weeks of Israeli military operations in Gaza, authorities have counted 20,000 dead Palestinians. An overwhelming number of the dead are innocent civilians with no ties to Hamas. An aid group warns the actual death toll is probably greater since thousands of missing Gazans remain buried under rubble. Israeli officials say civilian deaths are viewed as part of eliminating Hamas.
“As the official death toll in Gaza passes 20,000, Islamic Relief is warning that the actual toll is likely to be even higher – as thousands of people are still missing and buried under the rubble and young children are increasingly suffering severe hunger and disease,” a press release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. “To see 20,000 people killed in such a short space of time is a stain on the world’s conscience.”
According to Gaza’s Government Media Office, the dead include 8,000 children and 6,200 women. At least an additional 50,000 are injured.
An Israeli official told reporters on Wednesday that the mass destruction of civilian targets in Gaza is a part of Tel Aviv’s strategy of defeating Hamas. Reuters reports a legal advisor to the Israeli Defense Forces said the IDF was carrying out “thousands and thousands of attacks and often attacks that require heavy firepower” to destroy tunnels under Gaza used by Hamas. He added, “Really tragically that results in a large number of civilian casualties.”
Last month, the Israeli outlet +972 Magazine reported speaking with sources who said the civilian deaths were intentional. “Nothing happens by accident. When a 3-year-old girl is killed in a home in Gaza, it’s because someone in the army decided it wasn’t a big deal for her to be killed — that it was a price worth paying in order to hit [another] target.” The source continued, “We are not Hamas. These are not random rockets. Everything is intentional. We know exactly how much collateral damage there is in every home.”
The article also explains Israel’s targeting “power targets,” which include civilian infrastructure, such as high-rise apartment buildings, banks, universities, and other public buildings. The OCHA press release described the results of the Israeli policy. “The scale of destruction is staggering with at least 60% of homes and 69% of schools now reportedly damaged or destroyed, and almost 80% of hospitals no longer able to function,” it says.
The Israeli bombardment has targeted regions that were labeled safe zones. “More air strikes are conducted, more victims fall due to the expansion of the Israeli military operations in the areas that are supposed to be safe zones where the majority of Gazans have been urged to flee,” Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said in reporting from Rafah. “The air strike took place in an area considered to be very densely populated, and it’s a miracle that no more than this number of people were killed.”
The extreme destruction of infrastructure has created a humanitarian crisis that is threatening the lives of vast numbers of Palestinians. Aid groups say there is little food or medical services available. Human Rights Watch says Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war against the Palestinians who live in Gaza. The UN and World Health Organization have warned the healthcare system in the besieged enclave is nearing collapse.
“More than ten weeks of relentless Israeli assault has flattened much of Gaza and left civilians desperately searching for food, water, medicine, and fuel. Most people are now going whole days without food, and most civilians are now suffering severe hunger.” The OCHA statement adds, “Hundreds of thousands of people are crammed into makeshift shelters, and heavy rain and falling temperatures are making conditions even worse as tents have been flooded and children are rapidly becoming sick.”