Jerusalem The call came to the cellphone of his brother’s wife, Salah Kaware said Tuesday. Mr. Kaware lives in Khan Younis, in southeast Gaza, and the caller said that everyone in the house must leave in five minutes, because it was going to be bombed.
A further warning came as they were leaving, he said in a telephone interview, when an Israeli drone apparently fired a flare at the roof of the three-storey home.
“Our neighbours came in to form a human shield,” he said, with some even going to the roof to try to prevent a bombing. Others were in the stairway when the house was bombed not long afterward.
Seven people died, Mr. Kaware said, a figure also stated by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, which said that 25 people were wounded. The Israeli military said that targeted houses belonged to Hamas members involved in launching rockets or other military activity, and that they had been used as operations rooms.
But the events Tuesday were another example of a contentious Israeli policy in which occupants of a building about to be bombed or shelled are given a brief warning in Arabic to evacuate. The Israelis have used such telephone calls and leaflets for years now, in a stated effort to reduce civilian casualties and avoid charges of indiscriminate killings or even of crimes against the rules of war.
During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in late 2008, the Israelis often used telephone calls and leaflets to tell occupants to leave before striking. In some cases, the Israelis fired missiles without explosive warheads onto the roof to get Palestinians who had gathered there to leave. The Israelis called it “the knock on the roof.” But often, as in Khan Younis on Tuesday, people die in any case, because they ignore or defy the warnings, or leave after it’s too late.
And sometimes bombs and missiles do not always hit the exact building at which they’re aimed.
The Israelis also regularly drop leaflets over Gaza urging citizens to not co-operate with terrorism and to stay away from border zones, an injunction that has been criticized by human-rights advocates, like the Palestinian Al-Haq organization.
Israel does not always give warnings of course. Also Tuesday, a missile hit a car travelling along Al-Wehda Street in Gaza City, killing the three occupants. It seemed unlikely anyone had phoned them to forewarn that a missile was on the way.
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