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Israeli Airstrike That Killed 106 “Apparent War Crime,” Human Rights Watch Says

Four munitions, striking within 10 seconds of each other, totally destroyed a six-story building in Gaza in October.

Teams extinguish a fire as they conduct a search and rescue operation under the debris of destroyed building following Israeli attacks on the Nuseirat Camp in Deir al Balah, Gaza, on October 31, 2023.

One of the single deadliest airstrikes carried out by Israeli forces in Gaza since the beginning of Israel’s genocidal siege seemingly had no military target and was an “apparent war crime,” Human Rights Watch has found in a new probe of the strike that killed at least 106 Palestinians.

On October 31 at around 2:30 pm, in a residential area just south of Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, Israeli forces released a series of four munitions on a building known as the Engineers’ Tower, the humanitarian group found in its report. The bombs, which all struck within 10 seconds of each other, totally destroyed the six-story building, which was housing at least 350 people, with many families sheltering together.

The total number of Palestinians killed in the attack remains unknown. Human Rights Watch identified 106 individuals killed, while London-based civilian harm watchdog Airwars identified 112 people; together, the combined lists contain 136 individuals. These lists are likely an undercount, as many bodies are still buried under the rubble.

This is an extremely high civilian casualty count in any circumstance, as Human Rights Watch found; even further, the report uncovered no evidence of a military target in or around the area. Residents interviewed said they were given no advance warning of the attack or notice to evacuate.

The group has called for foreign governments to stop sending military assistance to Israel as long as it continues its attacks on civilians in Gaza.

“The absence of a military objective would render the attack on the Engineers’ Building unlawfully deliberate or indiscriminate,” the report read. “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.”

Human Rights Watch found that 54 children were killed by the strikes; Airwars identified 62 children. Three of the children had been playing soccer outside of the building when they were crushed.

“The back of his head was cracked open, one of his legs seemed barely connected to his body and part of his face was burned, but he seemed to be alive,” one of the boys’ fathers said, of finding his 11-year-old son buried in the rubble. “We freed him in seconds, but he died in the ambulance. We buried him the same day.”

Others described losing tens of family members in the attack.

“There was nothing worrying at all before the attack. Almost all of us were sitting in two rooms, one for men and one for women. Some of us were laughing. We had just baked bread. There were no signs or warning or any feeling of danger. We felt safe because it was an apartment building full of civilians,” said Ameera Shaheen, who was residing with her family in the Engineers’ Building after being forced by the Israeli military to flee their home in central Gaza the day before the attack. Shaheen lost 20 of her relatives in the airstrike.

“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,” said Gerry Simpson, associate crisis and conflict director for Human Rights Watch. “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.”

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