(New York) – An Israeli airstrike that killed 12 civilians – the largest number of civilians killed in a single attack during the Gaza fighting in November – was a clear violation of the laws of war. On November 18, 2012, Israeli forces dropped what appears to have been a large aerial bomb on the three-story home of the Dalu family in Gaza City, killing 10 members of the household – one man, five women, and four children. A young man and an elderly woman of the Muzannar family next door were also killed.
At first the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they were attacking a Hamas fighter named Yahia Abayah. Eight days later the IDF said the target had been the man killed in the house, Mohamed Jamal al-Dalu, whom they called a “terror operative” for Hamas without providing supporting information. Even if al-Dalu, a low-ranking police officer, was a legitimate military target under the laws of war, the likelihood that the attack on a civilian home would have killed large numbers of civilians made it unlawfully disproportionate, Human Rights Watch said. Attacks in which the expected civilian loss exceeds the anticipated military gain are serious violations of the laws of war.