The Israeli security cabinet has decided to escalate its aggression against the Gaza Strip. Israeli media have published news on their websites of Israel’s decision to intensify extrajudicial killings of Palestinian political leaders and to attack persons and objects that have not been hit. The decision came three days after the beginning of escalated Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, which has resulted, as of morning today, in the killing of 15 persons, including three children, and the injuring of 50 people including 11 children and three women.
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights calls on the international community to promptly intervene and to exert political and diplomatic pressure on Israel to prevent further escalation. The Israeli escalation and threats raise fears that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) may carry out a widespread military operation in the Gaza Strip, which would likely cause a serious level of death and injury among civilians and damage to civilian property such as that Gaza witnessed during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. Israel’s continued failure to abide by the rules international law—which bans attacks on civilians and civilian objects during situations of occupation and/or armed conflict, extra-judicial killings, and other attacks that fail to observe the basic principles of international humanitarian law (IHL)—amplifies our fear of seeing war crimes committed once again in Gaza.
Al Mezan asserts that the current failure to implement international mechanisms of protection, as well as the continued politicization of human rights issues in the context of the Palestinian cause and the Israel-Arab conflict, have entrenched a culture of impunity vis-à-vis violations of IHL and human rights law. As a result, the IOF has been encouraged to continue violating IHL in ways that frequently amount to war crimes and are tantamount to crimes against humanity, as the IOF soldiers or commanders who order and/or commit violations have never been brought to justice.
Al Mezan emphasizes the urgency of the situation in Gaza now. Efforts that could be undertaken to prevent Israel from further escalation will be less costly at various levels, but particularly in terms of human life and well-being, than standing aside and simply providing humanitarian aid, as such efforts can prevent bloodshed and stop a humanitarian crisis from developing in the first place.
Al Mezan recalls that the Gaza Strip has lived under a tight siege for over four years now, during which time the basic services and human rights situation, particularly in the area of health, have deteriorated. The health sector suffers from chronic shortages in medical supplies and equipment. It is not in a position to handle a new crisis. Moreover, tens of thousands of people continue to suffer from forced displacement due to IOF destruction of homes and the siege, which has prevented rebuilding of destroyed houses. Any new Israeli aggression will exacerbate the already deteriorated humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan therefore reiterates its calls on the international community, including the UN Security Council, other UN bodies, and the European Union, to exert pressure on Israel to end its aggression against the Gaza Strip and to ensure full respect of international law.