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Statement on World Humanitarian Day
20، Aug 2019

Date: 19 August 2019

Today, 19 August 2019, marks the 16th anniversary of World Humanitarian Day, designated by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to commemorate the August 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. On this day, Al-Haq recognizes the selflessness of aid workers across the globe and calls attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

Between 30 March 2018 and 1 August 2019, and throughout the Great Return March in the Gaza Strip, Al-Haq documented the targeting and killing of 208 peaceful Palestinian protestors, including four paramedics, two journalists, seven persons with disabilities and 44 children by Israeli snipers. Palestinians have been protesting for their right of return to their places of origin, the lifting of the closure of the Gaza Strip and an end to mass collective punishment of the protected Palestinian population therein.[1] Critically, in March 2019, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) recommended that Israel “Refrain from using lethal force against civilians, including children, journalists, health workers and persons with disabilities, who pose no imminent threat to life”.[2] Since then, Al-Haq documented the killing of paramedic, Muhammad Judeily by Israeli snipers at the Great Return March in Gaza.[3]

Meanwhile, last June marked the 12th year of closure of the Gaza Strip at land, sea, and air. Palestinians in Gaza continue to live under an increasingly worsening humanitarian crisis from Israel’s relentless military siege: some 80 percent of Gaza’s population are now dependent on humanitarian aid, while poverty and unemployment rates have soared to over 31 percent. Meanwhile, over one million Palestinians are currently food insecure, constituting over half of the total population. Gaza’s closure limits Palestinian accessibility to healthcare services, electricity, water, and sanitation, amongst numerous other basic needs. According to a UN agency, seawater has leaked into Gaza's sole water source, the coastal aquifer, with “96 percent of the groundwater…becoming unfit for human consumption”.[4]

According to international law, Israel as Occupying Power is obliged to provide adequate health services in the territory it occupies. The healthcare needs of Gaza’s residents are not met by the current healthcare infrastructure and as a result of the imposed closure. By June 2018, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that almost 8,000 of Gaza’s Great Return March protestors had been admitted to hospital, with more than 3,900 wounded by live ammunition. Many have sustained permanent injuries, including limb amputations.[5] Israel’s intentional closure restrictions and permit regime makes healthcare for Gaza’s residents difficult, and in many cases, impossible to access. Applications for permits to access treatment outside of Gaza are rarely approved, with one report indicating that out of the 93 applications submitted by Gazans to the Israeli authorities to access healthcare in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, only 24 were approved. Forty-nine were denied and 20 are still pending. Gaza’s hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of patients in need of treatment and Israel’s denial of permits places a greater burden on Gaza’s weakened health infrastructure. Gaza’s limited electrical supply, poor water aquifer, lack of sewage treatment facilities, and the world’s highest unemployment rates worsens the social-health crisis.[6]

Additionally, Gaza's key agricultural and maritime employment sectors are hindered by Israel’s continued enforcement of the ‘buffer zone,’ which it maintains by leveling farmland, damaging property and infrastructure, and destroying crops. Israel sprays unidentified chemical agents in the buffer zone, burning and damaging crops of Palestinian farmers in the area. At sea, Gaza’s maritime zone (Zone L), has been unlawfully reduced from 20 nm to six nm to secure Israeli gas fields in the nearby Mari-B field, greatly restricting fishing, recreational, and economic activities for Gaza’s residents. Palestinian fishermen from Gaza are increasingly threatened by diminishing access to income-generating opportunities.[7] Palestinian fishermen from Gaza are continually targeted by the Israeli military, facing detention, harassment and in some instances, death as seen in the 2017 case of Muhammad Majid Baker.

Palestinians in the OPT live under constant threat of Israel’s persistent international human rights and humanitarian law violations, leaving them vulnerable to coercive environments to force displacement. This includes Israel preventing access to essential services such as electricity networks which provide energy for home appliances, such as water heaters and refrigerators, necessary to preserve food and vital medications. Palestinians are routinely denied permits to build in areas of East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank, leaving them with no other option than build illegally, whereupon their homes are threatened with demolition orders and demolition. Under Israel’s E1 plan, Bedouin communities located to the east of Jerusalem in an area planned for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, including Khan al-Ahmar are at high risk of forcible transfer. There, demolition orders are pending on the entire village.

Meanwhile, the Israeli High Court of Justice found that structures built within 250 meters of the annexation wall in Area A, must be demolished.[8] On 22 July 2019, Al-Haq sent a joint urgent appeal to four UN Special Procedures mandates on the demolitions of Wadi Al-Hummus in the town of Sur Bahir. Regardless, the IOF demolished 10 Palestinian buildings, containing over 70 apartments.[9] Israel’s ongoing demolitions of Palestinian homes recalls memories of the Nakba during which Israel systematically uprooted, displaced, and dispossessed Palestinians on both side of the Green Line. Accordingly, Al-Haq calls on the international community to take immediate and collective action to halt the ongoing and imminent demolitions and to ensure that Palestinians whose homes have been demolished by Israel, the Occupying Power, are ensured effective remedies.[10]

Furthermore, when detained, Palestinians are subjected to mistreatment and denied adequate mental health and healthcare services. In a recent letter addressed to the Head of Mission at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), David Quesne, Al-Haq called on the ICRC to immediately intervene against the attacks of Palestinian prisoners. Al-Haq’s call comes at the heels of a January 2019 declaration by Israel’s Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, to “worsen” the conditions for Palestinian prisoners, including by rationing their water supply and cutting off associated funds.

The ongoing humanitarian crises in the OPT warrants the attention of the international community as Palestinians continue to live with the threat of an uncertain future at the hands the Occupying Power. The international community must call upon Israel to take responsibility for the wellbeing of the occupied population in the OPT, notably Palestinians in Gaza, and ensure the right to life, dignity and an adequate standard of living, healthcare services,[11] among other necessary basic needs, are made available. Al-Haq reminds Israel of the UN COI recommendation to “lift the blockade on Gaza with immediate effect”.[12] Al-Haq calls on the international community to comply with Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, i.e., to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. More specifically, Al-Haq recalls the recommendation of the COI to UN Member States to “consider imposing individual sanctions, such as a travel ban or an assets freeze, on those identified by the Commission as responsible for violations”.[13]

[1] “Six Months On: Gaza’s Great March of Return (August 8 2019), available at:

[2] A/HRC/40/CRP.2, Human Rights Council, “Report of the detailed findings of the independent international Commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (18 March 2019) 226.

[3] “Six Months On: Gaza’s Great March of Return (8 August 2019) available at:

[4] “Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine Weekly” (8 August 2019), available at:

[5] “UN Experts Say Gaza Healthcare at Breaking Point” (8 August 2019), available at:

[6] “UN Experts Say Gaza Healthcare at Breaking Point” (8 August 2019), available at:

[7] “Israel closes Gaza fishing zone after rash of balloon attacks” Times of Israel (12 June 2019), available at:

[8] “International Agencies Call Israeli Destruction of Palestinian Homes Illegal” (9 August 2019), available at:

[9] “E.U. Blasts Israel over Wadi Al-Hummus Home Demolitions” (9 August 2019), available at:

[10] “Al-Haq Sends Urgent Appeal to UN Special Procedures and Calls for Immediate Halt to Demolitions in Wadi Al-Hummus” (9 August 2019), available at:

[11] Ibid at 227.

‘[12] A/HRC/40/CRP.2, Human Rights Council, “Report of the detailed findings of the independent international Commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (18 March 2019) 226.

[13] Ibid.