Al-Haq is gravely concerned with the dangerous escalation of hostilities in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), incited by Israel’s incendiary military attack on peaceful civilian Palestinian worshippers at the sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine’s capital city Jerusalem, during the holy month of Ramadan. In a night raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Qibli Mosque, Israel deployed military force to attack, beat and injure Palestinians using military stun grenades and rubber bullets. In a series of mass arbitrary arrests, the IOF detained between 400- 500 Palestinian civilian worshippers, forcing them into buses to Atarot police station, to lie on the ground with hands cuffed behind their backs, in acts of inhuman, degrading treatment and punishment. The gravity of this attack on Palestinian civilians in the internationally recognised buildings of the third holiest site in Islam, must be characterised by the UN Security Council as a most serious use of force and an act of aggression.
The IOF attack on civilian worshippers in Jerusalem was prefaced by a year of serious escalations, including in 2023 to date, some 2,806 IOF incursions into the West Bank, the arrest of 1,790 Palestinians, the killing by the IOF of 93 Palestinians and injury of 414 Palestinians, including 56 children. In February, Israel authorised 7,000 new settlement units in the EI area of the West Bank, a move intended towards severing the territorial contiguity of the Palestinian territory, and thereby entrenching the patchwork of segregated Palestinian villages and towns into Bantustans and settler only by-pass roads connected to Israel. In furtherance of the settler colonisation, 67 house demolitions have resulted in the forcible transfer of 406 Palestinians, prompting the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing to issue a statement condemning and calling for accountability for Israel’s domicide.
A myriad of legislative acts and bills to appropriate Palestinian unregistered properties and revoke Jerusalem residencies for breach of allegiance, threaten to accelerate the forcible transfer of Palestinians from Jerusalem and radically alter the demography of Palestine’s capital to facilitate Israeli Jewish settlement. The attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque follows a pattern of Israeli attacks on Palestinian Muslim and Christian holy sites, “aimed at eliminating Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, including by attempting to eradicate their political, social, cultural, and religious identity”. Previously Israel’s attacks on Haram al-Sharif in 1990, resulted in the decision of the Secretary-General to send a mission to the region, as provided for under UN Security Council resolution 672 (1990).
Notably during belligerent occupation, cultural property is especially protected under Article 56 of the Hague Regulations (1907) stating: “The property of municipalities, that of institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences, even when State property, shall be treated as private property. All seizure of, destruction or wilful damage done to institutions of this character, historic monuments, works of art and science, is forbidden, and should be made the subject of legal proceedings”. Al-Haq further underscores the decision by UNESCO to place the old City of Jerusalem and its walls on the list of world heritage in danger, including because of Israel’s attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque, damage caused by the IOF to Qibli mosque, intrusive archaeological demolitions and excavations of Umayyad, Ottoman and Mamluk remains of the site of Mughrabi gate pathway.
Al-Haq recalls UN Security Council resolution 267 (1969) calling on Israel to “rescind forthwith all measures taken by it which may tend to change the status of the City of Jerusalem, and in future to refrain from all actions likely to have such an effect” and requiring in “the event of a negative response or no response from Israel, the Security Council shall reconvene without delay to consider what further action should be taken in this matter”. Further the international mandate under UN Security Council resolution 478 determines that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the recent ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith”. In addition to the warning contained UN Security Council resolution 1073 (1996) concerning “developments at the Holy Places of Jerusalem”.
It is critical that the UN Security Council intervene and address the root causes of settler colonialism and apartheid on both sides of the Green Line, underpinning the current escalation. Israel is in continuing breach of numerous UN General Assembly resolutions calling for Israel’s immediate, unconditional and total withdrawal from the territory and specifically UN Security Council resolution 242 (1967) calling for the withdrawal of Israel’s armed forces and the termination of all states of belligerency. Noting further that both the UN Commission of Inquiry and former UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk have characterised the occupation as illegal, the question is also the subject of a referral by the UN General Assembly for an Advisory Opinion. Critically, Israel’s attacks breach all considerations of necessity and proportionality, for an argued self-defence since 1967, and as such constitute unlawful acts of aggression. Given the failure of the UN Security Council to take the concrete measures necessary to maintain international peace and security in Palestine, including the protection of Jerusalem, there is nothing in the UN Charter which impairs the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence against Israel’s continued aggressive attacks on territory of Palestine.
As Israel attacked and desecrated Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli Knesset members promised disproportionate military attacks on the Gaza Strip. Israel’s former envoy to the UN, Likud MK Danny Danon, stated that “Israel must respond immediately, strongly and disproportionately”. Benny Gantz, echoed “[i]f we have to end 17 years of quiet on the northern border, we’ll do so — and demand a heavy price”. Likewise, “we have to attack forcefully in Gaza”. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, warned “[t]he government of which I am a member should respond strongly to the rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas rockets necessitate a response beyond the bombing of dunes and uninhabited sites… It’s time for heads to roll in Gaza”.
Al-Haq is concerned at the failure of the UN Security Council to intervene with a statement on the current escalation which has considerable regional implications. Al-Haq urges the immediate intervention of the UN Security Council acting under Chapter VII mandate to:
1. Condemn the illegality of the occupation and demand Israel’s immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the Palestinian territory, as required in resolutions since 1967;
2. Demand the dismantling of Israel’s Civil Administration and COGAT military administration of the occupied Palestinian territory;
3. Recognise and condemn Israel’s settler colonisation and apartheid regime as the root causes underpinning the continuous waves of conflict in the territory;
4. Call for the dismantling of Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime on both sides of the Green Line, including the repeal of discriminatory legislation;
5. Sanction Israel’s illegal occupation, and acts of aggression through the application of an arms embargo, economic sanctions and countermeasures against Israel; and targeted individual sanctions against Israeli settlers and Israeli settler organisations;
6. Refer the illegal occupation as a continuing illegal act of aggression to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for investigation;
7. Take concrete steps to ensure the realisation of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people as a whole, including refugees and exiles in the diaspora, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland.