Israel-OPT: A New Cycle of Violence whose Targets are Civilians
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The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and FIDH call on the EU to condemn the wilful targeting and killing of civilians and to ensure that all parties abide by their obligations under international law.
For weeks, the Israeli military has been targeting the occupied Gaza Strip with both aerial missiles and live fire in the buffer zone and the sea. This came amidst Israel’s ongoing wide scale military operation across the West Bank aimed at collectively punishing Palestinians for the disappearance and death of three Israeli teenage settlers. Israel has resorted to mass arrests, house raids, the excessive use of force and closures across the OPT.
On 8 July 2014, Israel further escalated its attacks on the Gaza Strip by launching its military operation “Operation Protective Edge”. Israeli warplanes have launched numerous airstrikes on various parts of the Gaza Strip. As of 1pm on 10 July 2014, 76 Palestinians, among them 20 children and 10 women, have been killed while at least 400 Palestinians, including 123 children and 86 women were injured during the same period. Six of the children were killed by an Israeli missile fired at a Palestinian home in Khan Younis on Tuesday. An 80-year-old woman was killed in Central Gaza on Wednesday. Meanwhile, some 250 rockets and projectiles have been fired at Israel from within the Gaza Strip. These attacks have deliberately targeted Israeli civilians. According to international humanitarian law, the indiscriminate and disproportionate killing of civilians in the context of an armed conflict is strictly prohibited and may amount to a war crime.
Israel has also deliberately targeted homes and civilian facilities. As of 1pm on 10 July 2014, 334 houses/structures have been damaged, 89 of which were completely destroyed. On 8 July, the IDF spokesperson announced that the Israeli military had deliberately bombed four homes of persons defined as senior Hamas activists. Israel must at all times distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives. The destruction of these homes is therefore not permissible unless rendered a military necessity. In these instances, the targeting of these homes constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law and puts the residing civilians at an unnecessary risk of harm.
Amidst the increasingly provocative rhetoric adopted by the Israeli authorities and threats of further escalation, settler violence and reprisal attacks against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank have also intensified. Settlers have run over a 9 year old Palestinian child and burned 16 year old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir alive following his abduction by settlers. These attacks have been accompanied by incitement campaigns. On 1 July, far-right activists held the “death to Arabs March” in Jerusalem calling for revenge of the three teenage settlers, while the Secretary-General of the World Youth Movement urged the government to turn Israeli forces into an army of avengers.
As an Occupying Power, Israel is obligated to maintain public order and ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As such, Israel must protect the occupied population and their property from acts of violence by settlers. Israel must also be held accountable and afford Palestinians effective remedy and justice.
The undersigned organisations call on the EU and its Member States to:
– Immediately and unequivocally condemn the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and civilian targets, particularly children, women and the elderly;
– Demand that Israel ensure accountability for all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including by conducting investigations that meet international standards, prosecuting those responsible and guaranteeing access to courts, redress and compensation to victims for damages suffered;
– Call on Israel to comply with its obligations as an Occupying Power, including maintaining public order and ensuring the safety of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.