Deadly Israeli strike on residential building ‘apparent war crime’: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch said Thursday that an Israeli strike on an apartment building in Gaza City last October was an “apparent war crime,” citing no military rationale behind the attack after a months-long investigation.

The Oct. 31 strike killed at least 106 civilians, including 54 children, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its report.

The report “found no evidence of a military target in the vicinity of the building at the time of the Israeli attack, making the strike unlawfully indiscriminate under the laws of war,” the group said. “Israeli authorities have provided no justification for the attack.”

The findings come as the International Criminal Court continues its war crimes investigation into Israel, including a claim of genocide against Palestinians brought by South Africa. The court has not ruled on the genocide claim but has condemned the Israeli military’s conduct in the war.

The report says about 350 civilians were in and around the Engineer’s Building in Gaza City when four Israeli missiles struck it around 2:30 p.m. At least 150 of the people were seeking shelter after being moved out of other parts of the city by Israeli attacks.

“None of the witnesses interviewed said they had received or heard about any warning from Israeli authorities to evacuate the building before the strike,” the group said.

HRW confirmed the identities of at least 106 victims, noting the total death toll is likely higher. The dead included children playing soccer outside and residents charging phones in the first-floor grocery store, it said.

“The fact that the building was hit four times strongly suggests that the munitions were intended to hit the building and that the strike was not the result of a malfunction or misdirection,” HRW said. “Even the presence of a valid military target would raise issues about the attack being disproportionate, given the visible and expected presence of large numbers of civilians in and around the building.”

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war since Oct. 7, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, including more than 13,000 children.

Months after the attack on the Engineer’s Building, most of Gaza City is in ruins after relentless Israeli air strike campaigns, and most people in northern Gaza have been forced to flee.

The organization called on Israeli allies to stop arms sales and intelligence sharing with the Israeli military “so long as its forces commit systematic and widespread laws-of-war violations against Palestinian civilians with impunity.”

“The staggering number of Palestinian deaths, mostly women and children, shows deadly disregard for civilian life and points to many more possible war crimes that need to be investigated,” HRW Associate Director Gerry Simpson said. “Other governments should press the Israeli government to end unlawful attacks, and immediately halt arms transfers to Israel to save civilian lives and avoid complicity in war crimes.”

The Israeli military rarely comments on specific strikes, and has said it does everything it can to limit civilian casualties. The military has generally blamed civilian casualties on Hamas, claiming that the militant organization embeds itself among civilians for protection.

The Hill has reached out to the Israeli military for comment. The military previously did not respond to requests for comment from HRW and The Associated Press.

The war crime finding comes after the Israeli military killed seven aid workers, including one American, in an airstrike on Monday, garnering international condemnation.

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