According to our close monitoring of the situation, many of the Israeli concerted attacks on the Gaza Strip were direct attacks on civilians, or disproportionate attacks. According to the monitoring by Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, since Wednesday 14 November, at least 162 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israel’s attacks. The majority of the victims are civilians, of whom at least 37 were children and 13 were women. Another 1,039 people were injured, including 315 children and 179 women. At least 963 houses have also been damaged or destroyed, including 92 completely. Of those 92 houses, 52 were directly attacked; including 35 deliberately targeted by direct Israeli attacks on houses, referred to as ‘roof-knocking’ attacks. Another 179 houses sustained serious damages. Moreover, Israeli attacks caused varying damages to 10 health centers, 35schools, 2 universities, 15 NGO offices, 30 mosques, 14 media offices, 92 industrial and commercial facilities, 1 UNRWA food distribution centre, 8 governmental building, 14 police/security stations, 5 banks, 34 vehicles, 3 youth clubs, 3 cemeteries, and 2 bridges.
We express our deep concern over the statements made by leading international community leaders; including the United Nations, United States, European Union and EU Member States. These statements, supporting Israel’s right to self-defense, fail to take into account Israel’s belligerent occupation and policies resulting in the continuous dispossession and forcible displacement of Palestinians. The silence over these policies and ignoring the context of occupation allows for grave breaches of international law to continue, and to harm hundreds of civilians. So far, international interventions failed to condemn direct, deliberate, or disproportionate attacks on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, a practice which can only serve to perpetuate the culture of impunity and the commission of grave breaches of international law by Israel.
The population of the Gaza Strip has been subjected to an illegal regime of closures for over five years, which has serious implications on the access to adequate health care, housing, water and sanitation. The destruction of civilian infrastructure as result of the recent attacks has further hampered these essential services. The military closure of the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment, which is a violation of international humanitarian law and must lifted with no delay.
In light of the devastation that has been wrought on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, the continuous denial of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the lack of genuine engagement of the UN Security Council, the undersigned organizations call upon the international community to:
- Taking swift steps to ensure that the violations committed in the recent offensive are promptly, impartially and transparently investigated with a view to holding those responsible accountable.
- Adopt immediate measures to implement the recommendations of the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict of 2009. This of paramount importance in order to secure accountability for violations of international law and to put an end to the prevalent culture of impunity that has allowed violations of international humanitarian law to pass without censure.
- Support a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to address the indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians;
- Formally condemning all attacks on civilians; particularly direct and deliberate attacks on houses and other civilian objects;
- Call on Israel to absolutely refrain from attacking civilian areas and to ensure that the civilian population enjoys the protection that international humanitarian law affords them in times of conflict. Israeli military attacks in densely populated areas, like the Gaza Strip, must strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality. Failure to take the necessary precautions can result in the commission of war crimes.
- Call on Israel to immediately end its illegal policies of closures of the Gaza Strip and the illegal implementation of a buffer zone on land and sea.
- Engage in genuine political efforts to a secure a resolution to the conflict that is firmly based on international law.
*The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC):