Israel’s "knock on the roof" policy: A three-minute race with death

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Palestinian men inspect a destroyed building following an Israeli military strike on Beit Lahya, northern Gaza Strip on July 15, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Mohammed Hams)

By: Sanaa Kamel, Zaher Fahim

Published Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It’s good for the killer to give his victim a chance to run. Israel is an expert at the game when it decides not to kill a Palestinian family where they sleep. After midnight, the occupation would call and demand that they leave the house. If they do not agree, Israel will be gracious enough to send a few warning shells. After the warning shells are fired, you have three minutes to leave the house with your family, or else.

Gaza – More than 281 homes in Gaza have been directly targeted and destroyed and hundreds more were partially damaged. Each of them has a story. Some were bombed for the third time, after being targeted in two previous wars and then rebuilt. Others had the chance to be filmed during the shelling. Three warning shells would be fired, followed by one or two of more than one ton of explosives. Life's toil turns into rubble and the names of a new family are recorded in the list of victims, if they did not get a warning shot.

The warning rocket does not lie. It is the final alarm, following the phone threats received by households in the context of Israel’s psychological warfare. With a loud bang it gives a three-minute warning and causes some damage to the roof. The residents (who number between 15 and 45) have three minutes to flee or die. They are also in a race against time to inform their neighbors of the news of impending destruction coming from the sky.

Gazans have many stories to tell about the warning rockets. They joke about having to sleep fully clothed and having the family gathered in one place, so they can leave quickly. But other stories are sad. There is one about a young man who was not home and could not inform his family - who did not have a phone - that he received a call to evacuate the house. He wished for a warning rocket, which could have saved some families from being killed. Another story is of an old deaf man. He became a martyr because he could not hear the warning shell and his children could not locate him in the ensuing confusion.

The occupation, on the other hand, believes such rockets to be the epitome of humanitarianism, since it warns "the residents of the house before bombing it to avoid casualties." It gives the impression to the world that this avoids targeting civilians, as if destroying a home is not a crime. The [warning] rocket is a new patent by which Israel seeks to avoid legal prosecution and ensure that its house demolishing policy is not considered a war crime.

As soon as the warning rocket is fired, the neighborhood's youth and children gather no more than 50 meters away. With their phones and cameras, they film a scene that could only be replicated by sophisticated special effects in a movie. But the scene is repeated every day right in front of them.

Mohammed Nawfal, from the central district, said he filmed the bombing of the house of his cousin and Hamas official Ayman Nawfal. He told Al-Akhbar that the occupation informed the family to leave their house via a recorded message. "They did not react at first. But soon a warning rocket was fired," he added. "At the beginning, we thought we had 10 minutes. However, the house was razed to the ground no more than a minute later."

The Hajj family was unlucky. They could not flee after the warning rocket, except one family member called Ahmed. He ran as fast as he could thinking that his family was with him. He did not hear what they were saying. Ducking behind a wall to use as cover, he found that he was alone. He ran back home, but three missiles from a warplane were faster. They were all killed and he was left to recount the tale as long as he lives, how he saw his house explode and his loved-ones annihilated.

"In less than a minute, all my family was gone. I was with them, listening to them, calming the children during the sounds of the shelling. Then they were gone. How did this happen? What law and what rights allows this to happen to us?" Ahmed wondered.

He started to scream: "Where are you [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas? Where is the state? Where are the Arab countries? God save us from you all!"

Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot had maintained that the Israeli army is using a method called "knock on the roof," to destroy Palestinian houses through shelling by air, sea, or land. It explained that a small explosion would take place, "then one minute will set the difference between total or partial annihilation, and sometimes none."

After the warning, the massive and huge explosion comes from the sky or the coast to remove the house from the face of the earth."

Yediot Ahronot went on to provide more details of the "knock on the roof" method. "First, a surveillance drone arrives and launches a rocket with a small warhead on the targeted house, to warn its residents and force them to leave, in accordance with international law," it wrote.

The newspaper indicated that this method was part of the lessons learned from the Goldstone report, which investigated the 2008-2009 aggression on Gaza, which condemned Israel for acts amounting to war crimes. However, the newspaper also indicated that those lessons "had nothing to do with not targeting Palestinian civilian homes anymore, but how to wrap up the crime with a legal cover."

On the Palestinian side, lawyer Salah Abdul-Ati explained that "Israel cannot circumvent international law by inventing designations that are not in the text of the law. However, it tries to avoid accountability." He maintained that Israel targets unarmed and protected civilians, as evidenced by many previous massacres. According to Abdul-Ati, the policy of destroying homes "is a war crime, since Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. There is also nothing in the law called warning civilians to leave their homes and shelling them."

Despite this, the legal expert is convinced Israel derives its strength from the impotence of the international and Arab community, who failed at holding it accountable for its crimes in the past two wars, "crimes that led to thousands of martyrs and thousands more wounded. This is in addition to the clear American bias and the support of foreign countries through the weapon of the media."

Abdul-Ati called for an international fact-finding committee to investigate the crimes of the occupation and document that clear war crimes were committed.

In the same vein, Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra indicated that the same missiles used to give warnings are also used in assassinations. They have caused dozens of casualties and martyrs who lost limbs, "or whose remains were scattered, making it impossible to identify them immediately."

"Israel keeps butchering Palestinian civilians, using internationally banned weapons. How can we believe it does not want most of them to fall as martyrs, by using warning missiles?”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Illegal Israeli State was Made Snatching away Palestinian Land, still now Palestinian Land is being taken away and More Illegal Settlements are being Build, whereas the Hapless UnArmed Palestinians are being Punished for Protesting this Injustice and Attrocities being done to them by the Israelis...Tons of Bombs are being Dropped on Innocent Civillians and no Country has the Gutts to utter a Word against this Genocide

"Stop being muslims and christians, accept Yah Weh, and it will stop". If that isn't barbarism i don't know what is.

Stop firing rockets at Israel fools, it will will stop. Stop killing Israelis , it will stop. Accept Yah Weh as the one and only God, it will stop.

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