Reuters and Israel Hayom
May 14, 2021
forces bombed a 13-story apartment building in the Al-Rimal
neighborhood of Gaza City on May 11, 2021. Israeli troops reportedly
warned residents before the attack.
He later told Reuters an Israeli officer had been giving him advance warning that the 13-story block he looked after would be the target of an airstrike. Israel said Hamas terrorists used the building.
Amid the fiercest escalation in fighting between Israelis and
Palestinians since 2014, this is what Nasman said in Tuesday's call:
"How much time do you want?" Nasman stops to listen. "Two or three hours? You said two or three hours, and then no one should be there?" Pause. "So I'll go to the block and say no one should come?"
Another man leans in, eager to hear the caller. "Ok, got it. The drone will hit it once and then two more times." Pause. "Then you'll strike the block." The 67-year-old father of eight stops again. "Yes, right, no problem, just a moment ... everyone has exited the building, even those from the buildings around are standing on the road - there is no one."
The building that had housed residential apartments and Hamas offices, which Israel said included intelligence and military operations, was evacuated. First, small missiles struck the block in Gaza City's Rimal district, then boom, the building crumbled, footage showed. Hours after it was destroyed, Israel confirmed it had given a prior warning for civilians to leave.
It says it makes every effort to preserve civilian life while Hamas uses civilian areas to mount operations, such as planning attacks or firing rockets at Israeli towns and cities.
While Gaza residents and other Palestinians say the vast majority of sites are hit without prior warning, the mobile exchange that preceded the strike on the Rimal block has become a more common feature of conflict since 2014's Operation Protective Edge: The Israel Defense Forces makes a call, tells residents to evacuate, tap-tap-tap go the small missiles as a final warning - and then a big one brings the building down.
"We select warheads with the necessary lethality to hit those who need to be hit, and to reduce the impact on others," said an Israeli official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, saying careful intelligence preceded the strikes.
"Roof-knock munitions have also been used as part of our warnings on residents to get out in advance," he said. Operations by Hamas turn the buildings into legitimate targets, he said.
Footage by residents using smartphones, or recorded by Israel's military or the media, have shown blasts that are contained to a single apartment or bring down a tower block while buildings next door stay standing.
In other cases, television footage has shown residential blocks and ordinary homes in Gaza shattered or destroyed by blasts, whether from direct hits or collateral damage, along with the dead and wounded being carried away.
"Even assuming, as the Israeli government claims, that a 13-story residential tower in Gaza housed 'an office that is used by the political leadership of Hamas, how is it proportionate for an Israeli airstrike to destroy the entire building?" Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, asked on Twitter.
Giora Eiland, a former IDF general and national security adviser, described Gaza high-rises targeted as crucial assets of Hamas, saying hitting them was "certainly legal and even compulsory for a country that wants to conclude a war."
Israeli commentator on Arab affairs Shimrit Meir said some of the apartment blocks where Hamas had operations were also homes for members of Gaza's wealthier Palestinian elite. When they were destroyed, she said, it added to pressure on the group.
"It spells an almost impossible duress for Hamas to deal with," Meir said, citing the Rimal district block as an example.