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Open Letter to the UN Security Council: Palestinian Civil Society Organisations Call for a Ceasefire
22، Oct 2023

Since 7 October 2023, the number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s attack against the Gaza Strip –according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health– as of 2:00 p.m., on 22 October 2023, has reached at least 4,651 Palestinians, including 1,873 children, with approximately 14,000 more injured. In the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, 86 Palestinians have been killed and 1,300 injured by Israeli occupying forces and settlers. Given the unretrieved bodies still trapped under the rubble, we have reason to believe that this figure will further drastically rise in the next few days.

We, as well as other civil society organisations, have repeatedly warned that the dehumanizing and genocidal rhetoric openly shared by Israeli officials in recent days would lead to even more atrocities and loss of civilian life if left unchecked. The exponentially climbing death toll, as well as the recent bombing of the al-Ahli Arab Hospital, have only confirmed our worst fears. With civilian infrastructure under constant attack and hospitals running out of electricity, the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip has reached an unimaginable magnitude of severity.

The deliberate failure of the international community to hold Israel responsible for its 56-year illegal occupation and aggression on the Palestinian territory, and its impunity over decades for its international crimes, including apartheid, has culminated in this week of horrific violence, war crimes and incitement to genocide. 

Furthermore, the recent failure of the UN Security Council to call for a humanitarian ceasefire has greenlit ongoing atrocities, such as the attack on the al-Ahli Arab Hospital and the ongoing loss of life in the besieged Gaza Strip. With the level of hostilities and the humanitarian crisis having reached unprecedented levels, it is of the utmost importance and urgency to call for an immediate ceasefire. In light of this, the recent failure to do so has not only been shocking for us and the broader Palestinian civil society but has also constituted a missed opportunity to halt the accelerating loss of civilian life.

Our organisations have already warned that the cutting off of water, electricity, and internet in Gaza, and the denial of entry of humanitarian convoys of food, medicine, and other supplies necessary for the survival of the population through the Rafah crossing, are all evidence that Israel is taking steps to act on its inciteful genocidal statements. Genocide means any of the following enumerated acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. It is clear that Israel is deliberately inflicting on the Palestinian people conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

On 15 October, some 800 scholars and practitioners of international law and genocide studies, including prominent Holocaust scholars signed a public statement warning of the possibility of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The warning was echoed on 19 October by  UN Special Rapporteurs stating, “we are sounding the alarm… there is also a risk of genocide against the Palestinian People”.

We note that the “international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. The international community has to intervene and the first step to halt this exponentially worsening humanitarian crisis is to call for an immediate ceasefire. 

In light of the above, we call on the UN Security Council to:

- Immediately call for a cease-fire and demand Israel comply with its obligations under international law, to stop its deliberate targeted attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, including with white phosphorus;

- Demand that Israel urgently and unconditionally allow the entrance of basic supplies necessary for the survival of the population and 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 Israel to allow the immediate and unconditional transfer of patients from Gaza to receive healthcare treatments, including lifesaving treatments; 

- Call on Israel to lift its 16-year-old illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip, and end its illegal occupation as a continuing act of aggression since 1967;

- Call on Israel, the Occupying Power to hold its responsibility in protecting civilians in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem and to stop the complicity of the Israeli military in settlers’ terror against Palestinian people;

- Recognise and acknowledge the root causes underpinning the ongoing Israeli military aggression, including Israel’s apartheid regime since 1948, as a tool of its settler colonialism, 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 56-year military occupation and Israel’s 75-year settler-colonial apartheid regime.