The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) is appalled by the disregard of international legal standards in the current conflict in Gaza. Over the past month, Israel has operated within a framework of vengeance in utter disregard of the UN Charter and binding international legal conventions. Measures taken by Israel that cannot be justified under any pretext include mass forcible displacement amounting to ethnic cleansing; indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the deliberate infliction of living conditions calculated to destroy Palestinian civilians in Gaza through siege warfare; the bombing of hospitals and United Nations properties being used to shelter civilians; and severely limiting access to clean water. CIHRS reiterates its urgent call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and for the liberation of all civilian hostages held in Gaza.
On 7 October, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups entered Israel and killed hundreds of civilians, taking over 200 hostages. Since then, over the past month, the State of Israel has responded with an indiscriminate and disproportionate attack on Gaza in which over 10,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians, including over 4,000 children. Israel’s crimes have not been limited to Gaza but extend to the West Bank where 163 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers. In addition, scores of Palestinians have been displaced from their land.
Nothing can justify this wanton disregard for civilian life and wholesale immolation of international legal standards. The damage being done to the integrity and credibility of international law threatens peace and security far beyond the geographical borders of the conflict between Hamas and Israel.
Senior Israeli military and political leaders continue to call for ethnic cleansing and mass indiscriminate killing of Palestinians. These calls have been put into practice through repeated attacks on hospitals and other humanitarian targets, and on schools and other UN buildings where civilians in their thousands have been seeking shelter. Already 88 UNRWA staff members and over 150 medical personnel have been killed. The intensity of the Israeli bombing of the small land area of Gaza in the past few weeks exceeds the tonnage of explosives dropped on Afghanistan by the United States over years.
UN human rights experts have repeatedly raised the alarm about the unchecked crimes against humanity in Gaza, and the mounting numbers of killings in the West Bank, pointing to “the risk of genocide against the Palestinian people.”
Concealing such flagrant crimes behind Israel’s (an occupying power) claimed right to self-defense lacks credibility. The right to self-defense in no way justifies complete disregard of international law. The United States and other Israeli allies are urging Israel to implement “humanitarian pauses” to enable essential food and medical supplies to reach the desperate civilian population, but Israel continues to obstruct even these modest requests.
In a welcome statement on 8 November, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that there should be no Israeli re-occupation of Gaza and no displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. But the Secretary’s stated wishes are contradicted by Israel’s current military operations inside Gaza and its repeated statements that it must retain security control over Gaza.
The time is long overdue for Israel to be held accountable for its brazen disregard of international law that endangers the security of everyone. The international community, including Israel’s closest allies, should strongly indicate their support of the efforts of the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes and other gross violations of human rights by all parties to the conflict. In addition, they should ensure that the existing UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and Israel has the resources and diplomatic support that will enable it to carry out its essential investigatory work in a timely manner.
The mass killing of Palestinian civilians will only fuel a cycle of retaliatory violence with further grievances, persecution and dispossession. Appeals to the need to defeat Hamas mask an intention to seek revenge, and to forcibly displace Palestinians from more territory.
Share this Post