Israel bombs Gaza city buildings where men were allegedly executed in front of relatives

Israel's UN Mission in Geneva denies claims cited by rights commissioner that soldiers were involved in shooting of 11 unarmed Palestinians in Al Remal neighbourhood

This image from video, released by the Israeli military, shows a tunnel network under Gaza City's Palestine Square being demolished.
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Israeli forces blew up several residential buildings in Gaza’s once most prosperous neighbourhood, two days after unarmed Palestinian men were allegedly killed in front of their relatives in the same area of the war-ravaged coastal strip.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Wednesday that it had received “disturbing information” that Israeli forces “summarily killed at least 11 unarmed Palestinian men in front of their family members” in the Al Remal neighbourhood in Gaza city.

OHCHR demanded an investigation into the allegations.

Israel’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva denied the allegation as “unfounded and devoid of truth”, in a statement on X on Thursday.

It said the Israeli military “has no record of any operation, nor incident, in the Al Remal neighbourhood in Gaza city that would support any of the allegations put forward by OHCHR”.

"Israel is committed to the respect of its international obligations, and forcefully rejects any allegations of extrajudicial killings. We will continue to investigate any serious claims brought to Israel's attention," it said in a statement.

A day after the OHCHR claims, the Israeli army announced that it had destroyed “a network of strategic tunnels” in Palestine Square, located in Al Remal.

It said the tunnels were linked to “hiding apartments, leadership offices, and apartments for senior leaders of the military and political wing of Hamas”.

A video posted online by the Israeli army showed a large explosion in a residential area and several buildings reduced to rubble.

The images shocked Samia Zidan, a mother of three whose house was in the area. She was forced to leave her home a month ago and flee south, hoping that she would be able to come back once the war was over.

“I told myself that I should be patient and wait until the war stops so I go back home,” she told The National on Friday.

“Where should I go now if the war stops?”

Her neighbour Tassneem Rafeq replayed the army’s video several times only to discover that her apartment in the area, which was still being paid for by mortgage, had been destroyed.

“I sold my gold jewellery, and my husband took a loan, to buy this apartment,” she said.

Northern Gaza has experienced the most intense fighting since the beginning of the war on October 7. The Israeli army has focused its ground offensive against the militant group Hamas on Gaza city and its surroundings, conducting raids on houses and, on some occasions, firing on anyone trying to move, according to residents.

Al Remal, once considered the most prosperous neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip, was almost entirely destroyed in the early stages of the war by relentless Israeli bombardment. It is located along the coastline, three kilometres from the city centre.

On Tuesday night, the Israeli army reportedly surrounded and raided a building, Al Awda, where many related families were sheltering.

According to witness accounts received by the Switzerland-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, the Israeli army separated the men from the women and children and then shot and killed at least 11 of the men, mostly aged in their late 20s and early 30s, in front of their family members.

The Israeli forces then ordered the women and children into a room and either shot at them or threw a grenade into the room, reportedly seriously injuring some of them, including an infant and a child.

In its statement, the OHCHR said it “confirmed the killings at Al Awda building, although the details and circumstances of the killings are still under verification”.

It said that the incident “comes in the wake of earlier allegations concerning the deliberate targeting and killing of civilians at the hands of Israeli forces”.

The UN body added that the incident “raises alarm about the possible commission of a war crime”, calling on the Israeli authorities to “immediately institute an independent, thorough and effective investigation into these allegations”.

More than 20,000 Palestinians – mostly women and children – have been killed and 53,000 wounded in Gaza in Israeli strikes and shelling since October 7.

Israel bombarded Gaza and launched a ground offensive after Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and abducting 240.

Updated: December 22, 2023, 1:52 PM