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Israeli human rights group denounces Netanyahu’s ‘criminal policy of revenge’

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Picture: Mohammed Abed / AFP / Taken October 9, 2023 – A fireball erupts from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. The death toll from the unprecedented assault by Palestinian militant group Hamas on its territory rose to 900 in Israel, which has retaliated with a withering barrage of strikes on Gaza, raising the death toll there to 687.

By Jake Johnson

“One crime does not justify another, nor does one kind of injustice justify another.” – B’Tselem

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem on Tuesday condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials in Israel for implementing a “criminal policy of revenge” in the wake of Hamas’ deadly attack, making a dire humanitarian situation worse by intensifying the unlawful blockade of Gaza and bombing civilian areas of the occupied enclave.

The group said in a statement that Netanyahu’s call for Gazans to “ get out now“ ahead of Israel’s relentless bombing campaign was a “farce”, given that the Gaza Strip is “closed off on all sides and the residents have no way out”.

“There are no shelters and no way to seek cover from airstrikes,” B’Tselem said. “Among the people killed, some of them still trapped under debris, are entire families wiped out in a single bombardment — including at least 140 minors and 105 women. The death toll is rising by the minute.”

“The order to prefer damage over precision has also been carried out. Hundreds of homes already lie in ruins, including residential towers reduced to rubble and houses that collapsed on top of the inhabitants,” the group continued.

“More than 180,000 people have been internally displaced. Roads and public buildings, including schools and medical clinics, have been damaged by airstrikes. Hospitals are functioning only partially — some were damaged by bombing, and all are severely lacking medical equipment and fuel for electric generators.”

B’Tselem’s latest statement comes a day after it denounced Hamas’ massacre of Israeli civilians as a “shocking crime whose horrifying dimensions are slowly becoming clear”. On Tuesday, the group said that “even in the face of horror and terror —intentionally harming civilians, their property and civilian infrastructure is always prohibited”.

The new statement describes Israeli’s massive wave of airstrikes and its total blockade of the Gaza Strip — which is home to 2.3 million people, roughly half of whom are children — as “war crimes openly ordered by top Israeli officials”.

More than 800 people, including more than 140 children, have been killed and over 4,200 have been injured in Gaza since Israel began bombing on Saturday, the day Hamas gunmen crossed into Israel and killed hundreds of people. Netanyahu pledged in response to turn the places Hamas “hides and operates” into “cities of ruin”.

In addition to its aerial bombardment of Gaza, Israel is preparing for a “months-long ground campaign in Gaza”, TheTimes of Israel reported on Tuesday. A major invasion is expected to push the already devastating death toll even higher.

B’Tselem said Tuesday that “one crime does not justify another, nor does one kind of injustice justify another”.

“Acts of revenge are prohibited by basic moral principles and by the provisions of international law that Israel is obliged to uphold,” the group added. “Contrary to what Israeli ministers are implying, this policy is not new, but has been implemented towards Gaza for many years. The death, destruction, pain, and horror it has wrought have led to nothing but more horror. It is time to demand a different reality — a new future for all those who live here.”

Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams

This article was first published on Common Dreams