Israeli strike on Gaza that killed 106 civilians a war crime, Human Rights Watch says

Analysis shows no Hamas militants were in vicinity of building flattened by strike in October

A view of the aftermath of the Israeli strike on the Engineers’ Building near Nuseirat refugee camp on October 31, 2023. Getty Images
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An Israeli air strike in Gaza that killed 106 people, including 54 children, in late October was an “apparent war crime”, Human Rights Watch has said.

There was no indication that any Hamas militants were in the vicinity at the time of the attack on the Engineers' Building in central Gaza on October 31, said a report released on Thursday.

HRW spoke to relatives of those killed and analysed satellite imagery, photographs and videos.

At least 350 people were in the building south of the Nuseirat refugee camp, witnesses told HRW.

“At least 150 were seeking shelter after fleeing their homes elsewhere in Gaza,” the report said.

The building was completely destroyed when four bombs hit it in 10 seconds, the report added.

“Human Rights Watch was unable to visit the site because Israeli authorities have blocked virtually all entry into Gaza at its crossings since October 7,” it said.

“Israel has repeatedly denied Human Rights Watch requests to enter Gaza over the last 16 years.”

In its nearly six-month war, the Israeli air force has used tens of thousands of munitions, including 900kg bombs that can level entire apartment buildings and send shrapnel 365 metres from the blast.

Last week, the US authorised the transfer of another 1,800 MK84 900kg bombs and 25 F-35 stealth fighter bombers to the Israeli air force.

The latest military support package comes despite fraught relations between Israel and the US, with growing American criticism of Israel's military campaign and the number of civilian deaths. Those include seven aid workers from US-based charity World Central Kitchen, killed in Israeli air strikes on Tuesday.

The charity has called for an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes, which hit three vehicles that were clearly marked as belonging to WCK.

"This was a military attack that involved multiple strikes and targeted three WCK vehicles," the charity's chief executive Erin Gore and executive co-chairman Javier Garcia said.

"All three vehicles were carrying civilians, they were marked as WCK vehicles and their movements were in full compliance with Israeli authorities, who were aware of their itinerary, route and humanitarian mission."

Criticism of Israel is also mounting as more images and testimonies emerge from the aftermath of Israel's raid on Al Shifa hospital in northern Gaza.

Israel has admitted to killing at least 200 “militants” and detaining 900 for questioning, without specifying where.

“The whole six months of war is one thing – but what happened in Al Shifa is a completely different thing,” said Ahmed Kouta, a Gazan doctor who visited the site after Israeli forces withdrew.

“We used to sleep, eat, see our friends and family there. Our whole education was at Al Shifa as students and during our post-grad whether as staff workers or visitors.

“Everybody has a memory in that place.”

On Thursday, Gaza's Health Ministry said 33,037 Palestinians have been killed and 75,668 injured since Israel's war in Gaza began. Hamas killed about 1,200 people in its attack on October 7, also taking about 240 hostages.

Israel has continued its bombardment of Rafah, where nearly all of Gaza's 2.3 million population are seeking shelter. It is also bombing other areas of the enclave.

In Rafah, bodies were pulled from under the rubble after Israeli air strikes on several homes.

At least two people were killed by Israeli strikes in Nuseirat camp, and others were killed in artillery shelling south of Deir Al Balah in central Gaza, Palestinian state news agency Wafa reported on Thursday.

Several civilians were injured in attacks on homes in Al Zaitoun and Tal Al Hawa neighbourhoods in Gaza city, Wafa reported.

In Khan Younis, in the south, Israel fired at Al Nasser and Al Amal hospitals, injuring several people. The exact number of casualties is still being determined.

“Occupation aircraft opened fire on citizens' homes in Al Qarara, north-east of Khan Younis,” Wafa reported.

Updated: April 04, 2024, 1:00 PM