On 11 October 2023, Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) sent an urgent appeal to 14 UN Special Procedures, and the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI), calling on their urgent intervention in light of Israel’s total warfare on Gaza’s civilian population since 7 October 2023.
On 7 October 2023, Israel launched a large-scale retaliatory military offensive on Gaza.. Since then, Israeli military attacks have indiscriminately targeted the civilian population and infrastructure, with statements from Israeli officials calling for the reduction of Gaza to “rubble”, which indicate Israel’s intent to commit war crimes and other international crimes against the civilian population. This is compounded with the intensification of the illegal blockade and closure, with official decisions to cut off food, water, fuel, and electricity from Gaza, in what constitutes total warfare on the civilian population, employing starvation as a weapon.
The joint appeal outlined that since 7 October, Israel’s attacks have targeted and destroyed residential homes, killing civilians and wiping out entire Palestinian families often without issuing precautionary warnings. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza (MoH), between 7 October and as of 2 pm, on 11 October 2023, the Israeli aggression on Gaza has resulted in the killing of 1,100 Palestinians, including 326 children, 171 women, and ten medical personnel, and the injury of around 5,339 Palestinians. The MoH also reported the killing of eight journalists in Gaza. The Gaza Government Media Office reported that between 7 October and as of 2 pm, on 11 October 2023, Israeli attacks resulted in the complete destruction of 535 residential buildings, and 2,152 residential housing units, resulting in the displacement of 250,000 Palestinians.
Moreover, the joint urgent appeal outlined that since the aggression, Israel closed crossings, denying the entry of humanitarian supplies. On 11 October, the Energy Authority in Gaza announced that fuel completely ran out from Gaza’s sole power plant, which means that soon all services vital for the survival of the population, including hospitals, will no longer function.
Since our organisations sent the urgent appeal to the UN Commission of Inquiry and UN Special Procedures, there have been calls by the United States for a “humanitarian corridor” for safe passage of civilians from the Gaza Strip to Egypt. While there is no specific legal provision for humanitarian corridors to remove civilians to another jurisdiction under international humanitarian law, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 provides for evacuation, inside the occupied territory. Commentary to Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions outlines that “it is stipulated that evacuation must not involve the movement of protected persons to places outside the occupied territory unless it is physically impossible to do otherwise”. In this vein, we further note, that characterising the entire Gaza Strip as a single military objective is absolutely prohibited under the laws of armed conflict. A further ICRC analysis on the legality of safe passage explains that “the transfer and evacuation of people at risk must be voluntary and carried out with their consent”.
Israel’s human rights violations include systematically denying the right of return of Palestinian refugees and exiles for over seven decades. It has done so through the implementation of discriminatory legislation and apartheid practices, including the forcible transfer of over 750,000 Palestinians during the Nakba, 400,000 Palestinians during the 1967 war (the Naksa), the forcible transfer of over 14,500 Palestinians to alter the demography of East Jerusalem, and continuing daily displacement of Palestinians across the rest of the Wank Bank, through coercive environments, discriminatory planning and zoning and house demolitions. Given that forcible transfer coupled with the denial of the right of Palestinian return are the hallmarks of Israel’s settler colonial apartheid policies and practices, we urge the UN Special Procedures to intervene to prevent any further forcible transfer of Palestinians, including through mass ethnic cleansing, masquerading as an evacuation.
In light of Israel’s total warfare on Gaza, widespread indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians and civilian objects under complete closure, and the imminent malfunctioning of all basic services vital for the survival of the population, including hospitals, as a result of Israel’s collective punishment policies, the organisations call on the UN special procedures and the CoI to:
- Call on Israel to immediately cease its aggressive military offensive on the Gaza Strip; including by stopping the willful killing of civilians and its patterns of indiscriminate attacks on civilian properties;
- Call on Israel to immediately restore electricity, water, food, and fuel to the Gaza Strip,
- Call on Israel to allow the immediate and unconditional transfer of patients from Gaza to receive healthcare treatment;
- Call on Israel to immediately allow unimpeded access of fuel and humanitarian aid, including medical supplies into the Gaza Strip;
- Call on Israel to immediately lift its 16-year-old illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip; and its illegal occupation as a continuing act of aggression since 1967,
- Recognize the root causes underpinning the ongoing Israeli military aggression, including Israel’s apartheid regime, as a tool of its settler colonial regime, and the denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, including their right to return;
- Call for the realisation of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, including their right to return, including by calling for a complete end to Israel's settler-colonial regime and its military occupation;
- Call on the international community, including states and international bodies, to take concrete steps to ensure the revocation of the Israeli decision to cut off water, electricity, and food in Gaza, and the unimpeded access of humanitarian aid, including medical supplies into the Gaza Strip;
- Call on States to abide by their obligation to refrain from assisting in maintaining the illegal situation, arising from Israel’s violations of peremptory norms, including by stopping the provision of military equipment used in Israeli war crimes, and issuing statements greenlighting aggressive force under the guise of “self-defence”.
- Call on the UN Security Council to implement economic sanctions and other countermeasures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law; and
- Call on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to expedite the investigation into the Situation in Palestine with full resources and onsite visits as promised in December 2022.
- Call on the international community to protect the people of Gaza against ethnic cleansing, their forcible transfer outside the occupied Palestinian territory, and denial of return as refugees, already displaced since 1948.
Read the full urgent appeal here.
*Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech on 7 October in Hebrew,
*Israeli Minister of Defense’s tweet on 9 October in Hebrew,
*According to the MoH on Facebook,
* Figures as of 10 October 2023. Press release by the MoH,
*According to the Gaza Government Media Office on Facebook,
* OCHA, ‘Escalation in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #3’ (9 October 2023),
* Aljazeera, ‘Gaza faces ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ as power plant running out of fuel’, (11 October 2023),