The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the Interchurch related Development Organization (ICCO) express their deep concern regarding the latest escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is with deep regret that we receive reports of grave violations of human rights in the region. The EMHRN and ICCO call on all sides to refrain from the use of violence against civilians and to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
October last year, the EMHRN sent a mission to the Gaza Strip to study the situation after the Israeli “disengagement”. The mission was co-sponsored by ICCO. The mission reports that Israel remains the occupying power of the Gaza Strip even after the “Israeli Disengagement Plan”. The mission report is attached.
What have been witnessed in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli unilateral deployment during the EMHRN mission and during the last days are in all too many aspects severe violations against international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Attacks on civilians, Palestinian and Israeli, cannot be justified by any means, wherever and for whatever reason they take place. They are contrary to the right to life – the most basic human rights value.
The Israeli aerial and artillery attacks which are taking place, according to Israel, in response to continuing Kassam missle attacks against Israeli population centres and to the kidnapping (capture) of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants, constitute a severe threat to the lives of the Palestinian civilians.
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, the civilian population of an occupied territory is protected persons. Article 27 of the Convention establishes that protected persons “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof…” Israel, as the Occupying Power, is obliged to comply with these provisions.
Palestinian civilian infrastructure has been severely damaged by the bombing of the Gaza Strip’s only power plant, of the two bridges that connect the southern, middle and northern parts of the Gaza Strip, as well as the destruction of roads and public buildings. Destruction of such properties cannot be classified as a legitimate military targets.
According to EMHRN’s member in Gaza, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, restoring the power plant and resuming its operations could take up to 6 months and will cost millions of dollars. It must be emphasised that parts of the Palestinian infrastructure have financed by the EU and EU Member States. As international donors they should not continue replacing respect for international law with only financial and humanitarian assistance. They should hold the violators of international law accountable.
The complete closure of the borders to the Gaza Strip constitutes restrictions to Palestinians’ freedom of movement. The bombing of the bridges has severely restricted movement inside the Strip. This not only threatens people’s lives and security but also deprives them of the access to health and education. It will have implications on Palestinian economy due to losses in trade and business.
Israel’s control of Palestinians’ movement between Palestinian territories might lead to further alienation between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – hindering the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Israel’s actions constitute collective punishment against the Gazan population, reaching to 1,6 million persons. Collective punishment is prohibited according to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The detention by Israel of a large number of Palestinian Cabinet Ministers, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a number of Hamas political leaders constitutes an attack on democratically elected representatives. This constitutes an attack on the Palestinian democracy, hence a further deterioration of the democracy and the building of a Palestinian state.
The EMHRN and ICCO call upon:
Israel to immediately to put an end to the attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government to release the recently detained Hamas politicians or to put them before just trial.
The Palestinian Authority to take all possible measures against those who launch attacks on Israeli population centres from within the Gaza Strip.
The EMHRN calls upon the group(s) holding the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, to provide him with appropriate medical care in accordance with international law.[
The EU to make public reference to the illegal actions carried out by the Israeli armed forces that are causing the humanitarian crisis in the OPT. The EU should call on Israel to stop these illegal actions, reverse their effects to the fullest extent possible, and make correct reparation for the harm they have wrongfully caused.
The EU to base the implementation of the Action Plan for Israel under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) on a clear acknowledgement by Israel of its status and duties as an Occupying Power.
The EU to make it clear to Israel that the EU’s provision of humanitarian assistance is within the rules of international humanitarian law and does not release Israel from its responsibilities as an Occupying Power. The EU should demand reimbursement from Israel for all costs and additional costs incurred on the provision of humanitarian relief deliveries as a consequence of access and mobility restrictions imposed unlawfully by Israel’s military authorities.