In the month following our last bulletin which documented solidarity actions with the Palestinians of Gaza in the face of Israeli genocide, the Israelis intensified their destruction of Gaza, destroying many of its hospitals. These and other actions constitute war crimes according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the countries of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) and Israelis Against Apartheid.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk declared Wednesday, November 8, that “the collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts… to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians.” Türk’s comments came after he visited the Rafah border crossing that connects Egypt to Gaza, which he described as “the gates to a living nightmare—a nightmare where people have been suffocating, under persistent bombardment, mourning their families, struggling for water, for food, for electricity and fuel.” Long before October 7, when a Hamas-led attack killed over 1,400 Israelis and triggered Israel’s retaliation, Gaza was “described as the world’s biggest open-air prison… under a 56-year occupation and a 16-year blockade by Israel,” he highlighted.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres —who has also been pushing for a cease-fire—called out Israel’s aerial and ground operations for their impact on civilians during a Reuters conference on Wednesday, November 8. “We have in a few days in Gaza thousands and thousands of children killed, which means there is also something clearly wrong in the way military operations are being done.” He said Gaza was becoming “a graveyard for children.” According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, the Israeli war against Hamas has already killed over 4,300 children.
Amnesty International, on October 20, wrote that Israeli attacks on Gaza caused mass civilian casualties and must be investigated as war crimes. ““In their stated intent to use all means to destroy Hamas, Israeli forces have shown a shocking disregard for civilian lives. They have pulverized street after street of residential buildings killing civilians on a mass scale and destroying essential infrastructure, while new restrictions mean Gaza is fast running out of water, medicine, fuel and electricity. Testimonies from eyewitness and survivors highlighted, again and again, how Israeli attacks decimated Palestinian families, causing such destruction that surviving relatives have little but rubble to remember their loved ones by.”
Human Rights Watch, on November 14, wrote that “The Israeli military’s repeated, apparently unlawful attacks on medical facilities, personnel, and transport are further destroying Gaza’s healthcare system and should be investigated as war crimes.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that at least 521 people, including 16 medical workers, have been killed in 137 “attacks on health care” in Gaza as of November 12. These attacks, alongside Israel’s decisions to cut off electricity and water and block humanitarian aid to Gaza, have severely impeded health care access. The United Nations found as of November 10 that two-thirds of primary care facilities and half of all hospitals in Gaza are not functioning at a time when medical personnel are dealing with unprecedented numbers of severely injured patients. Hospitals have run out of medicine and basic equipment, and doctors told Human Rights Watch that they were forced to operate without anesthesia and to use vinegar as an antiseptic.
Following an extraordinary BRICS summit on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, convened by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and held via videoconference. November 21, 2023, Ramaphosa said “Israel’s actions clearly violate international law, including the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Convention. The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the illegal use of force by Israel is a war crime. The deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to Gaza residents amounts to genocide.” His demand for a ceasefire was echoed in statements from the presidents of Russia, Brazil and China.
Israelis Against Apartheid, a group representing more than 1,500 citizens, this week urged the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor “to take accelerated action against the escalating Israeli war crimes and genocide of the Palestinian people” in Gaza. “Israeli military personnel and journalists are now openly calling for ethnic cleansing and genocide,” their letter adds. “It is evident that Israel is disregarding the lives of civilians in Gaza, ordering them to evacuate vast areas even as there is no safe place in Gaza to which people can flee.”
How can these war crimes be stopped? This question is considered in a related blog this month.
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