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Amnesty International Finds “Damning Evidence of War Crimes” by Israel in Gaza; Death Toll Tops 6,500

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Despite growing international condemnation, Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire of its continued assault on Gaza. “Israeli forces carried out indiscriminate attacks, killing and injuring civilians, and in some cases that we documented, … entire families were wiped out,” says Amnesty International researcher Budour Hassan, who shares testimonies of Gazans from a new report on Israeli war crimes. Meanwhile, Israel continues to attack civilians in the occupied West Bank, and the number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails since October 7 has doubled. “This level of pressure, of coercion, of oppression that Palestinians have been facing in the West Bank … has received such scant attention because all eyes now are on Gaza,” says Hassan.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The death toll in Gaza has topped 6,500 as Israel continues to bombard the besieged territory for a 19th day. According to Palestinian health authorities, the dead include 2,700 children.

Israel, with the backing of the United States, has rejected calls for a ceasefire. On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the U.N. Security Council and called for a ceasefire.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES: It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their lands steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence, their economy stifled, their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing. But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas, and those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel condemned Guterres’s comments and has vowed to stop issuing visas to U.N. representatives. Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. is also calling for Guterres’s resignation.

This all comes as the humanitarian situation in Gaza grows worse by the hour, as dwindling fuel supplies could soon force the closure of all hospitals in the territory. Israel is also continuing to carry out attacks on the occupied West Bank. An Israeli drone strike on the Jenin refugee camp has killed at least three Palestinians. Israeli security forces and settlers have killed at least a hundred Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since October 7th. And even before that, this was the deadliest year for Palestinians, at least one killed a day in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the number of Palestinians jailed by Israel has doubled over the past two weeks, from about 5,000 to 10,000.

In other developments, the prime minister of Qatar says he hopes there will be a breakthrough soon on the Israeli hostages being held by Gaza. Hamas and other groups are believed to be holding about 220 people seized on October 7th in the Hamas attack that left around 1,400 people dead in Israel.

We begin today’s show in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, where we’re joined by Budour Hassan, Amnesty International researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Amnesty International published a report last week headlined “Damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza.”

Budour, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you lay out your findings?

BUDOUR HASSAN: A hello, Amy, to you, to Juan and to all listeners and viewers.

With the help of our field worker who is based in Gaza and testimonies that we gathered from witnesses, victims and relatives, in addition to open-source evidence and photographs examined by our evidence lab team, we found out that Israeli forces carried out indiscriminate attacks, killing and injuring civilians, and in some cases that we documented, and that barely scratch the surface of the horror that is unfolding in Gaza, entire families were wiped out during this bombing campaign, which is only escalating. In addition to indiscriminate attacks by Israeli forces, we also documented the ongoing use of collective punishment, which is a war crime, that even where Israel alleged that there was a military target, a legitimate military target, the attacks failed to abide by the principle of proportionality.

And just, Amy, to go further, because we keep hearing numbers, and sometimes we may be desensitized and even inured to the extent of horror that we are witnessing, that behind each of these number there are stories. So, as part of our work, Amnesty International researchers have been listening to testimonies of people in Gaza, of victims, talking directly to people over the phone. And when we talk to people — for example, we talked to Tahir al-Zaizi [phon.], who lost 26 members of his family. All of his family were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Deir el-Balah. Tahir al-Zaizi’s two children, aged 8 and 6, were among those killed — his mother, his father, his brothers, his nieces, everyone of his family. And when we talked to him, he simply said, “You know, in my heart, there is no room for all of this.” And he started reciting the names, ages of his relatives lost. And I was reminded by Scholastique Mukasonga, the Rwandan writer, when she was remembering her loved ones who were killed in the Rwandan genocide and said that “They are all killed. No one has remained.” And this is exactly what happened to Tahir.

Another father we talked to, when we talked to him over the phone, he was removing rubble with his own hands, because bulldozers couldn’t make it to the neighborhood. And there are no — bulldozers can’t even make it because there is no fuel to power bulldozers and to remove the rubble. So he was left with trying to remove the rubble and to excavate the shreds of his daughter. And then, while we were with him on the phone, someone told him, “We found the toe of your little daughter.” And he started kissing her toe. This is the only thing that was left to him from her. We talked to people who don’t even have photographs to remember their loved ones with. They only have rubble, because their phones, their laptops were all destroyed in airstrikes.

We also talked to relatives of the family of al-Dos in al-Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City. Fifteen members of this family were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the first day of the bombings on the 7th of October, including a 12-year-old named Awni al-Dos. We did not realize at the time that Awni was a talented gamer and YouTuber. Only later did it emerge from his friends that one of his dreams was to have more than 100,000 subscribers on YouTube, which he will never see. And these are just some of the faces.

Right now, as we speak, people in Gaza have not been able to mourn or to grieve properly. There are no funerals for the dead. It’s very hard. There are more than 1,000 bodies buried under the rubble, and people cannot get. Even when people manage to bury their loved ones, they just bury remnants. And even when they share with us testimonies, with the difficulty of getting to people, what they share with us almost are fragments of testimonies, not really testimonies, because of the devastation that they’re living through and because simply they say, “We need time to at least think about mourning our loved ones, about reflecting on all that we’ve been going through.” And with this incessant bombings and war, they don’t even have time for that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Budour, I wanted to ask you: What did your report find about the Israeli military warning civilians before dropping these bombs or missile attacks? And also, Israel has claimed that the people of Gaza should move out of northern Gaza into the south. But what are you finding about attacks in the south?

AMY GOODMAN: Budour? We’re talking to Budour Hassan, who is Amnesty International researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We’re having a bit of a sound issue. Amnesty International has published a new report headlined “Damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza.” Go ahead with what you were saying, Budour.

Why don’t we turn to a clip as we fix the sound with Budour Hassan? More than half of Gaza’s population has been displaced by the Israeli assault. This is an 18-year-old Palestinian named Dima Allamdani. She had fled to southern Gaza after Israel ordered Palestinians to leave their homes in the north. Much of her family died in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, where the family had sought temporary shelter.

DIMA ALLAMDANI: [translated] I went to look for my mother, my father and my siblings at the morgue. At first they told me, “Come, see your mother.” They didn’t show me her face, but I recognized her from what she has on her feet. God bless her soul. I felt heartbroken. It was like a nightmare. They opened my father’s coffin, and he had no signs of injuries, but he died. God bless his soul. I had a 16-year-old sister among the dead, and they wrote my name on her coffin since they thought it was me. Her body didn’t have any signs of injuries, but maybe she died from internal injuries. … They also showed me my little sister. She’s in first grade. And they asked me, “Who is she?” At first I didn’t recognize her due to all the cuts and burns on her face. Then they wrote her name on her coffin. I would have never thought that my family would end up like this. I felt heartbroken. It’s a nightmare. I can’t believe it, until now, that they’re all dead, no one left.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I think we have the connection straightened out with Budour Hassan. I was asking you, Budour, about the Israeli warnings to civilians before attacks, what you’ve learned about that, and also about the Israeli claim that the Palestinians of northern Gaza should move to the south for safety.

BUDOUR HASSAN: Juan, in the majority of cases that we did document, there were no warnings before the airstrikes, so the families did not receive at all any warnings. Even in cases where there was advance warning, that advance warning was not effective, because it was only informed to one of the family members, not to the entire family or the residents of the buildings. And it failed to meet the standards that require to make a warning effective, with no clear timeframe.

With regards to the warning, the initial warning by the Israeli army issued on the 13th of October for all of the residents of north of Wadi Gaza to evacuate to south of Wadi Gaza, this amounts to a forced displacement, simply because this is unfeasible for this community to leave. They cannot leave. Obviously, there are thousands of people with disabilities, wounded people. This number of people simply do not have the means and cannot leave. And then that was later followed by leaflets dropped by the Israeli army warning people to leave and then saying that anyone who chooses to stay north of Wadi Gaza will be considered accomplice with armed terrorist organizations, as per the words of the army, which again amounts to collective punishment, fails to meet the principle of distinction, because an entire area, hundreds of thousands, nearly a million people are treated just like an open fire zone, which also signals that the Israeli army intends to not distinguish between civilians and military target, because an entire area is transformed into one.

And even if we support that many of these people were to leave, the situation in southern Gaza, and especially in Rafah and Khan Younis, is particularly dire. The UNRWA-run schools are barely — they’re not capable of dealing with the amount of people, the influx of people into south Gaza, in addition to the incessant bombardment also targeting areas in southern Gaza, especially over the last five days. So, these coercive conditions in which the Israeli army is trying to force people out, which, again, amount to forced displacement, knowing that people in Gaza absolutely have nowhere safe from bombardment and airstrikes.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the West Bank. That’s where you are right now, Budour. You’re in Ramallah. In the occupied West Bank, health officials say at least a hundred Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and armed settlers amidst mounting military raids and arrests. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has documented some of the attacks. In one video shared online, an Israeli settler, accompanied by an Israeli soldier, shoots a man at point-blank range. Major protests also across the West Bank have taken aim at the ruling Palestinian Authority, which has launched a violent crackdown on demonstrations. Last week, a 12-year-old Palestinian girl named Razan Nasrallah was shot and killed by PA security forces during protests in Jenin following the deadly bombing of Gaza’s Al-Ahli Hospital. Still not clear what that explosion — who was responsible for that explosion. But, Budour, if you can talk about what’s happening also with Gazans who had work permits in the occupied West Bank, what has happened to them, and what’s happening in the prisons, where thousands of Palestinians are held?

BUDOUR HASSAN: Since the 7th of October, after the Hamas attack, thousands of workers from Gaza who had valid work permits to work in Israel and the occupied West Bank had their work permits unilaterally revoked. So, they could only learn about that through an application. And then Israeli forces started rounding them up and detaining them in military bases in cage-like conditions. One prisoner who was later released, because he was actually a resident of the West Bank, spoke about torture and other ill-treatment to which these workers are subjected. Families of workers who contacted Israeli human rights organizations, including HaMoked, Gisha and Physicians for Human Rights, said that they have no clue where their family members are. So, Israel now is treating — is arbitrarily detaining thousands of Palestinian workers, almost treating them like hostages, denying them due process, denying them meetings with lawyers. There is not even a hint of due process, in addition to torture.

All that in the context of increasing numbers of detentions, and before that, before all of this started, the number of Palestinians administratively detained without charges or trial has hit a 20-year high. And the number has doubled just since the 7th of October. And Palestinian families obviously have not been able to visit their loved ones in prison. In addition to that, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, adopted an amendment that would authorize the Israeli prison authorities to not limit the number of people who can be detained in one cell, which has made the conditions of imprisonment absolutely dire and amounting to torture and other ill-treatment.

All of that, Amy, as you said, in the context of increasing number of unlawful killings of Palestinians, including Palestinian children, mostly during protests, and many of these cases where state-supported settlers have also been rampaging across the West Bank, leading to unprecedented levels of forcible transfer in areas around Ramallah. And unfortunately, this level of pressure, of coercion, of oppression that Palestinians have been facing in the West Bank, which is part and parcels of Israel’s apartheid regime, has received such a scant attention, because all eyes now are on Gaza, which has given the opportunity to Israeli settlers and to Israeli policymakers to actually escalate their campaign of forcible transfer and of settlement expansion.

AMY GOODMAN: Budour Hassan, we want to thank you so much for being with us, Amnesty International researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Again, we will link to Amnesty’s report headlined “Damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza.”

When we come back, we speak with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen about his new memoir, A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, a History, a Memorial. A major talk in New York was canceled after he signed, along with hundreds and hundreds of writers, a letter calling for a ceasefire. Stay with us.

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“A Man of Two Faces”: Author Viet Thanh Nguyen on New Memoir, U.S. Imperialism, Vietnam & More

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