List of definitions used in Al Mezan center for human rights reports and documents

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10 February 2016

List of Definitions used in Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reports and documents



The definition and distinction of a child from other persons is based on the definition of a child stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 (CRC). The CRC considers any person below the age of 18 a child. Unborn babies are not considered children in this report. Every person killed before reaching the age of (18), even by one day, was included within the category of children, both girls and boys.  



The term female considers the gender of the person regardless of her age, i.e. the category of female includes both adult women and girls. This applies to every use of the term female.


Woman /women:

The term woman/women refers to every female that has reached the age of 18, regardless of her marital status, i.e. includes both married and single females. The category excludes child females.   



 The term civilian refers to a person who has not taken a direct part in hostilities, either through confrontation with enemy forces, or other activities, such as military training, gathering of information/intelligence, or providing logistical support to hostilities. This category also includes persons who are affiliated with the political wings of Palestinian factions and might have connections with armed groups, however, they did not conduct activities that have to do with combat action, and there was no information to prove their involvement in any way in supporting military efforts. Conversely, the same persons are considered combatants if there was no proof that they had never participated in activities related to hostilities, especially if their factions made statements that they were members. Therefore, should there be minor mistakes in calculating the number of combatants, the actual number would be smaller than that presented in this report due to the counting of dozens of those persons.    


Resistance fighter/combatant: [1]

This report adopts a definition of 'resistance fighter/combatant' that includes any person killed who was taking direct part in major or minor hostilities alongside the Palestinian armed resistance groups, whether in direct combat action with Israeli forces or in any other circumstances, including passing by when an attack was carried out that was not targeting them.

This category also includes persons killed in assassinations (targeted killings) by Israeli forces as known affiliates of armed resistance groups who took part in hostilities continuously or sporadically, even if the assassination occurred geographically far from the hot battlefield or the individual was not at that moment participating in hostilities. Conversely, this category excludes persons otherwise considered civilian who were killed in assassination attacks and were in the location of such attacks by coincidence.

It is worth noting that the categorization of dozens of deceased individuals as combatants was determined after field workers carried out field research and primary research online and found information and evidence that although the persons were killed in situations where they were not taking part in hostilities, they would be categorized as combatants due to statements made by armed resistance groups and letters they left behind confirming their affiliation with armed groups. Fighters who were killed in what seem to be civilian setting (not in direct combat) are categorized below as combatants killed in a civilian setting.



The categorization of assassinated persons is based on Israel’s explicit announcement – following the planning and the extrajudicial killing – that it targeted that individual specifically. The assassinations category differs from killings of persons categorized as combatants where the same planning and method of specific targeting isn’t followed.  An attack by drones on persons Israel suspects of launching an armed attack are categorized as combatants, but outside the 'assassinations' category. Examples of the 'assassinations' category in this report are found in the attacks that targeted the Commander of the Al Qassam Brigades in Gaza City, as well as the attack on leaders of Al Qassam Brigades in Rafah, including Mohammed Abu Shamalah and Ra’ed Mohamed Al Attar. 


Presence in Assassination Location:

This category refers to people killed in locations where assassination attacks were carried out that were targeting other people. They could be people living in the immediate vicinity of the location of the attack or people passing by, by coincidence. This category also includes persons who were with the targeted individual(s) at the time of the attack, but were not themselves targeted. In the event that those accompanying targeted-persons were members of military groups but are not announced as targets of the attack, they are still classified as resistance fighters (combatants) who were at an assassination scene, but not as targets of an assassination attack. 


Forcible Displacement:

Forcibly displaced people are those who were forced to leave their homes because of fear from danger caused by bombardment that targeted their houses or houses in the vicinity of their homes. This category includes people who were killed while trying to escape neighborhoods under bombardment to safer areas.


Providing Assistance and Rescue:

This category includes persons killed while attempting to aid or rescue, or provide first aid to others. Non-paramedics are included, such as neighbors or relatives, who were attempting to help or rescue neighbors or relatives whose houses had been bombarded, when the Israeli forces launched additional attacks at the same location and killed them.



This term refers to persons killed because he/she was accidently in or passing by a location that was targeted by an Israeli military attack. This category does not apply to persons killed in their houses, places of work, or during hostilities, if they were taking part in them.


At Work:

Refers to persons killed while they were exercising their daily, routine work, such as farmers, shop owners, and governmental and non-governmental employees.  


Compound Type:

This category groups casualties according to the classification of their residential area, regardless of their refugee status. A compound could, for example, be a village/rural compound or a city/town/urban compound, or a rural refugee camp. It could be an urban/city compound where a refugee victim resides or a rural compound where refugees reside…etc. It focuses on the type of community.


Refugee Status:

This term refers to the status of a victim based on whether she/he was a refugee or a non-refugee resident of the Gaza Strip. A refugee is defined as a person who himself/herself or their ancestors were forced to leave their towns/villages of origin within the pre-1948 Palestine and relocate to the Gaza Strip or elsewhere. Refugees' offspring who were born in the Strip after 1948 are also classified as refugees.


Residential house:

A residential house is a place consisting of walls, a ceiling, and a floor, and includes a kitchen and a bathroom. It is connected to basic services, such as water and electricity grids. That is the general definition. This report takes into consideration one essential criterion - house ownership. For instance, registration of property is based on the actual registration of ownership and allocation of the property. Hence, a multi-story house owned by one person – with only one water and power subscription with the local authorities, and where none of the apartments inside it are registered as owned by another person through sale, rental agreement, or inheritance – is considered as only one residential house. Otherwise, an apartment within a residential building, regardless of its size or the number of floors in it, which is owned by a certain person and has separate water and electricity subscriptions, is considered a residential house by itself. So are other types of residential buildings, such as villas, rural houses, or ground floor houses in the countryside or in refugee camps. Therefore, certain multi-story houses are sometimes counted as a single house (when the ownership and services belong to one person) while in other cases they can be considered several houses. An example of the latter is when a house encompasses several apartments that are legally registered as being owned by different persons and have separate service supplies.

The reason behind this classification is owed to the nature of the work of the four human rights organizations involved in the documentation campaign, which requires the legal proof of ownership. Such proof is usually used by victims to seek certification of the damages incurred to their homes (and the same applies to other private property such as land, vehicles or commercial stores). Such certification can be the basis of receiving humanitarian aid, support for reconstruction, or compensation, in which case such resources must be legally granted to the person(s) who legally own the property. This type of classification should explain why there are conflicting figures of destroyed or damaged properties provided by other parties, such as the United Nations or governmental bodies, who use different criteria or definitions. This report provides the overall outcome of the joint documentation campaign carried out by the four human rights organizations based on this definition. It is not meant to give the total number of residential units affected by the military attacks, which is naturally higher than the number presented in this report since a large number of such residential units was not classified as 'residential houses' due to the lack of proof of ownership or proof of independent ownership.     


Total Damage:

This term refers to houses that were totally destroyed or demolished, or houses that suffered destruction beyond repair and have to be completely demolished in order to be reconstructed.


Severe Partial Damage:

This term refers to houses that suffered substantial damage that surpasses damages to windows, doors, water tanks…etc., and that caused destruction of walls or main concrete structures; however the damages are repairable and the house could be re-constructed without the need to demolish it first.


Partial Damage:

This term refers to houses that suffered damages that did not cause destruction of walls or concrete structures or foundations, but was limited to burning of rooms' content and destroying of windows, doors, and water tanks.


Slight Damage:

The documentation campaign disregarded houses with minor damages, such as those with broken windowpanes, due to lack of resources and concern over the feasibility of listing this type of damage in an inclusive way. Tens of thousands of houses were slightly damaged; however, a detailed investigation of such damage requires additional resources and time in the field that exceeds the capabilities of this campaign.


Number of Permanent Inhabitants:

The number of permanent inhabitants in a residential house could differ from the number of members of a family, because there are members of the same family who do not permanently reside in a house together for various reasons, including marriage, living in a separate house, or residing abroad. This term refers to the number of people who were living in a residential house, permanently, at the time when it was destroyed or damaged.


Number of Families:

The campaign adopted various means of proof of ownership, including sale and rental contracts, and separate connections to public services provided by the local authorities.[3] In doing so, it transpired that while many multi-story buildings were legally registered as owned by a parent, they contained more than one residential unit inhabited by more than one family. Thus, the number of families residing in a certain house provides an important criterion to indicate the number of families who suffered from forcible displacement and attests to the very high number of affected residential units, regardless of ownership.  




[1] The coalition of the four human rights NGOs preferred to take a cautious approach in defining the status of civilian and combatant. As a general rule, the definition used for combatant is broad and inclusive, and allows for the inclusion of persons who might not otherwise be considered combatants. This categorization is without prejudice to other legal principles that under certain circumstances determine as legal attacks in which combatants are killed or wounded.

[2] The selection of the term 'Assassination' includes acts described as 'extrajudicial killing' or 'targeted killing'. The use of this term was motivated by practical concerns, since the translation of the latter terms in Arabic is too long to be effectively used in the database and statistical reports with tables and charts.

[3] In this case, the family who reside in a residential house (which could be an apartment within a building) must show electricity or water bills attesting that they are recognized as a separate family, distinct from others who live in the building; sometimes even when the others are part of the extended family.