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Human rights group says Israeli strike on Gaza building kills 106, appears to be war crime

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JERUSALEM –

Human Rights Watch says an Israeli attack on a Gaza apartment building in October killed at least 106 civilians, including 54 children.

The New York-based human rights organization says its investigation, released Thursday, found no evidence that the attack targeted militant activity inside the building, making it an apparent war crime . International law prohibits attacks on military targets that could cause disproportionate harm to civilians.

The October 31 attack was one of the deadliest since the start of the war almost six months ago.

Human Rights Watch says four separate strikes destroyed the engineers building in central Gaza, which housed some 350 people, about a third of whom had fled their homes elsewhere in the territory.

Among those killed were children playing soccer outside and residents charging their phones in the first-floor convenience store, he added.

Thirty-four women, 18 men and 54 children were killed in the strike, according to the group, which said it corroborated its death list with Airwars, a London-based conflict monitor. The deaths came from 22 families. An extended family, the Abu Said family, lost 23 family members during the strike, according to the statement.

The Associated Press reported four siblings who were killed during the October strike, including 18-month-old twins.

“They had no time here,” said Sami Abu Sultan, their uncle, a day after the building was destroyed. “It was God’s will.”

In preparing the report, Human Rights Watch says it interviewed 16 people, including relatives of those killed in the attack, and analyzed satellite images, 35 photographs and 45 videos of the aftermath. She was unable to visit the site because Israel severely restricts access to Gaza.

Witnesses told the rights group there was no warning before the attack. Human Rights Watch says Israeli authorities have not released any information about the alleged target and have not responded to its requests for information.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense residential areas. But the army rarely comments on individual strikes that kill dozens of people, including women and children, every day.

Israel faces growing international criticism over its wartime conduct after its strikes killed seven aid workers earlier this week. Israel’s unbridled campaign in Gaza has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages. The bombing of the strip is one of the most intense aerial campaigns of the 21st century.

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