What’s Happening in Gaza: ACRI’s Position
For over ten days, the intense combat between Israel and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip has exacted huge costs in lives lost and damage wrought in this latest round of violence.
Israel has a responsibility to the people of Gaza, including during wartime, due to the blockade it established 14 years ago. Israel controls the airspace, the sea, and border-crossings into the territory. As a result of the blockade, Gaza is facing an ongoing humanitarian crisis that grows more severe with every round of violence and fighting. Moreover, in Gaza, the coronavirus crisis remains in full force.
Reports from Gaza indicate that half of those killed in the latest round of violence were women and children; tens of thousands of people have been uprooted from homes that have been destroyed or have been forced to flee the airstrikes; massive damage has been caused to civilian infrastructure. Israel’s policy of attacking Gaza, which includes warplanes dropping bombs on targets located in the heart of a packed civilian population, strikes intended to damage or destroy buildings that provide services to civilians, and extensive damage to road infrastructure, the electricity system, and medical facilities, raise grave concerns regarding violations of the rules of warfare.
During this latest conflict, Israeli citizens were endangered by rockets fired indiscriminately by Hamas and Islamic Jihad toward civilian populations. These attacks also constitute a violation of the rules of warfare and harm the safety, well-being, and property of Israelis. However, Hamas’ violations of the rules of war do not exempt Israel from fulfilling its obligations in accordance with those same rules.
The Chief Investigator of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, who was appointed, among other reasons, to investigate war crimes amid escalations between Israel and groups in Gaza, issued a stern warning to both sides regarding possible war crimes committed during this latest round of violence.
The horrific consequences of the fighting have already necessitated an end to the current policy of aggression in Gaza. This policy kills innocent civilians and destroys civilian buildings and infrastructure. The border-crossings must be immediately opened to enable the entry of humanitarian relief, in the form of food, medicine and equipment, and to evacuate the critically ill and wounded.
Additionally, the attacks that have been carried out thus far must be examined: an assessment must be conducted that is effective, external to the government and military, and entirely independent. In cases where it is determined that violations of international law have occurred, it is incumbent upon the state to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.