Al-Haq calls for immediate and concrete action from the international community in light of the vicious military operation on Jenin city, including Jenin Refugee Camp, on 26 January 2023, whereby in around three hours, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) killed 10 Palestinians, including two children and one woman. In one of these killings, whereby the IOF shot a Palestinian child, a military vehicle ran over his deceased body, severing his right ear and maiming his face. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Israeli raid resulted in the injury of another 20 Palestinians, few are in a critical condition.
According to Al-Haq’s preliminary documentation, in the early hours of the morning of 26 January 2023, the IOF, accompanied by special units driving civilian vehicles, including a Palestinian truck of dairy products, raided Jouret al-Dahab neighbourhood in the middle of Jenin Refugee Camp and sieged a residential building belonging to the Al-Sabbagh family. Several IOF raided residential buildings near the Al-Sabbagh home, deploying fully armed occupying soldiers, including snipers, into the houses, which were then used as sniper concealment points, terrorizing the civilian residents of these houses and endangering their lives. Meanwhile, the IOF started bombing the Al-Sabbagh building without any prior warning, and fired at those present in the building, resulting in the killing of one Palestinian with a shot in the head. Afterwards, an Israeli intelligence officer called a member of the Al-Sabbagh family, instructing her to leave the building, alongside others found therein, and requiring one of them to dress in white. During the call, and as the Palestinians attempted to leave the building, the IOF fired at them hitting one in the leg. After exiting the building, the Palestinian instructed to dress in white was later partially stripped off his clothes, beaten and arrested by the IOF.
Between 7:00 am and 9:30 am, the IOF heavily fired shells and live ammunition in the area, which resulted in an extensive destruction of the Al-Sabbagh family building and the partial destruction of another home. Three of those present in the Al-Sabbagh family building were killed due to the heavy shelling of the building by the IOF, as the bodies of two of them were found completely burnt.
The IOF also targeted a community social and sport club in Jenin Camp with a military bulldozer, destroying a tin roof shade over the concrete stands, and several vehicles parked in the yard, in one of which a Palestinian was found and was critically injured as a result. Electricity generators were also targeted, cutting off electricity and internet to the Refugee Camp and its surroundings, including the Jenin Government Hospital, against which the IOF fired tear gas bombs, resulting in the suffocation of patients, including women and children.
Alarmingly, the Israeli authorities communicated to the Palestine Red Crescent Society that medical units would be denied entry to Jenin Refugee Camp absent prior coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross. This has become a common practice of the IOF military incursions into Jenin Refugee Camp according to Al-Haq’s documentation.
The Jenin Camp Attacks in Colonial Context
Less than a month since the swearing in of the 37th Israeli government, the newly-formed government have been determined to put into practice the guiding principles and coalition agreements, which make explicit their intent to annex the occupied West Bank in violation of international law, further entrenching Israeli-Jewish supremacy on both sides of the Green Line and denying the Palestinian people the exercise of their inalienable right to self-determination and return. So far this year, between 1 and 25 January 2023, the IOF has killed 20 Palestinians, killing a Palestinian almost every single day. By January 26, after Israel’s offensive on Jenin, the death toll for Palestinians this year is already an alarming 36. While the new government is explicit in how it wants to expand the settler-colonial project, Israel’s excessive use of force policy is nothing new or exclusive to a far-right government, but is an exemplification of the broader settler-colonial and apartheid regime. In fact, in one of the deadliest years since 2005, the year 2022 witnessed the killing of 192 Palestinians, including 44 children and 7 women by the IOF and colonial settlers. Of these, 53 killings occurred in the Jenin Governorate.
Since 1948, Palestinians in Jenin Refugee Camp continue to be denied their right to return to their homes and properties from which they were forcibly displaced during the Nakba. Since Israel’s occupation in 1967, they have been enduring the establishment and expansion of settlements, the Annexation Wall, military checkpoints, the appropriation of natural resources and corporate capture, while being subjected to military raids, arbitrary arrests, killings, and collective punishment. The deadly military operation on Jenin Refugee Camp on 26 January 2023 is reminiscent of the infamous 2002 massacre in Jenin Refugee Camp and town during the second Intifada, when the IOF killed 52 Palestinians, demolished approximately 169 homes, displacing more than a quarter of the camp’s population, levelling and destroying the Camp with no accountability or reparations. Since the Unity Intifada of May 2021, Palestinians have continued to resist Israel's settler-colonial apartheid regime in pursuit of their inalienable right to self-determination. Israel launched its “Brake the Wave” operation in February 2022, with a “shoot-to-kill” policy of extrajudicial killings, excessive force, arbitrary arrests, movement restrictions and punitive house demolitions, intended to eradicate Palestinian resistance specifically in Jenin and Nablus. The official de facto annexation policies over the West Bank, are clear manifestations of Israel’s intent to not only expand its settlement enterprise, but to suppress any act of resistance to its settler-colonial and apartheid regime, including suppressing popular resistance and legal advocacy, to erase Palestinian existence and identity.
The acts carried out by the IOF in Jenin Refugee Camp in the morning of 26 January 2023 violate international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, and amount to international crimes prosecutable under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). To begin, given the illegality of Israel’s military occupation and the illegal apartheid regime, the entire military operation over the refugee camp constitutes a prohibited act of aggression jus ad bellum, in violation of peremptory norms governing the use of force. Significantly, Israel as Occupying Power, is obliged to police the area under the law enforcement paradigm, predominantly under an international human rights law framework. The resulting arbitrary and disproportionate use of force and lethal force, ipso facto violates the right to life enshrined under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the requirement to use no more force than is absolutely necessary to effect a lawful arrest. Notably, a number of Palestinians killed had been hit in the upper body, a targeting which may indicate an intention to kill by the IOF. Such may further amount to the war crime of wilful killing under Article 8(2)(a)(i) of the ICC Rome Statute. Further, the bombardment of residences in a densely-populated area constitutes a prohibited destruction of civilian property under Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime. It must be noted that attacks on electricity generators, as objects which are indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, are prohibited. Moreover, the means through which the IOF surreptitiously entered the Camp in a civilian vehicle, feigning civilian status, is considered a perfidious act prohibited under customary international humanitarian law and Article 8(2)(b)(xi) of the ICC Rome Statute.
In the absence of concrete actions by the international community, including the imposition of sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel in line with Third State obligations to bring the crime of apartheid to an end and to enable the realization of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, Israel will continue to enjoy impunity and deprive Palestinians of their lives, liberty, and dignity. The international community must address the root causes driving the never-ending cycle of violence and violations against the Palestinian people, including the denial of the right to self-determination and return of the Palestinian people, the settler-colonial and apartheid regime, and the illegal occupation.
In light of the ongoing international accountability mechanisms, including the open investigation into the Situation in Palestine at the ICC and the work of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, we call on Third States to support the work of these independent mechanisms, to contribute to ending Israel’s impunity, and ensure the prosecution of Israel’s international crimes, and to further investigate, prosecute or extradite to the ICC perpetrators of international crimes within their jurisdiction. We further call on the Prosecutor of the ICC, Mr. Karim A. A. Khan KC, to issue a preventative statement condemning the continuous escalating widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian people, and to follow through on his intention to visit Palestine in 2023 to investigate Israel’s crimes as urgent.
* Following further documentation by Al-Haq, this statement is an update of the original statement issued on 27 January 2023. We note that the statement has undergone minor edits for clarity and accuracy, as of 31 January 2023.