As lawyers committed to the protection and advancement of Palestinian human rights, we call upon the international community to act decisively to immediately cease the catastrophic resumption of hostilities in Israel and Gaza. Previous large-scale hostilities between Israel’s military forces and Palestinian armed groups have caused massive loss to civilian life and destruction to civilian infrastructure, predominantly in Gaza. We have no confidence that the parties to this conflict will properly adhere to key international humanitarian law principles that govern the conduct of hostilities – distinguishing between civilian and military targets, proportionality, and precautions in attack – based on our assessment of previous escalations.
LPHR acutely deplores the acts of Palestinian armed groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to kill and abduct hundreds of Israelis, and to indiscriminately launch thousands of rockets into Israel. As of 10 October, it is reported that at least 900 Israelis have been killed and at least 2,600 injured since 7 October. More than 100 Israelis have been abducted and are being held captive in Gaza.
LPHR is also acutely appalled by Israel’s military response to deliberately target scores of civilian homes in Gaza. As of 11:00 on 10 October, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, at least 770 Palestinians have been killed and 4,100 injured. It is clearly apparent that many of the casualties are civilians who have been killed whilst sheltering inside their homes.
Israel’s immediate military response demonstrates that it is again implementing its extremely controversial military policy of deliberately targeting family homes in Gaza. The execution of this policy was viewed by local human rights organisations as the emblematic feature of Israel’s military offensive on Gaza in 2014. The subsequent UN independent Commission of Inquiry quoted a witness who said: “This war was different from previous wars, especially for women. Civilians were attacked particularly in their homes. The home is the domain of the women”.
Over 66 per cent of children killed (370 out of 556) and over 82 per cent of women killed (241 out of 293) during the 51-day hostilities in 2014 were targeted inside their homes. LPHR is exceptionally concerned that these hostilities will see similar enormous numbers of women, children and the elderly being killed inside their homes.
Israel’s general legal justification for its deliberate military targeting of family homes in Gaza is that a home can be lawfully targeted on the basis of operating as a ‘command and control centre’. However, very significant questions have been raised by the UN independent Commission of Inquiry, and by LPHR, as to whether Israel’s authorisation of airstrikes against family homes are in compliance with international humanitarian law.
The massive scale and rapidity of civilian casualties, Palestinian and Israeli, only three days into this current escalation is extremely alarming. Israel’s announcement yesterday of the implementation of a ‘complete siege of Gaza’ is beyond conscionable. The deeply threatening statements by the parties to the conflict about what is likely to lie ahead over the coming days, weeks, and possibly months, indicate that civilians will continue to bear the brunt and immeasurably suffer.
LPHR accordingly urges the UK government and wider international community to emphasise in the strongest terms the importance of all parties adhering to international law, and to uphold its vital role in ensuring the parties do so.