Israel Once Again Violates International Law
On August 5, 2022, Israeli forces carried out a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which began with the assassination of a commander of the Islamic Jihad, one of the Palestinian resistance factions. As a result, ten Palestinians were killed and 55 others were wounded.
Three days before the attack, on August 2, 2022, Israeli authorities closed both the Karem Abu Salem and Erez crossings. Indeed, Al Mezan warned that closing the crossings could be a prelude to a large-scale military offensive against the Gaza Strip.
This latest offensive clearly provides evidence of Israel’s neglect of its obligations under international law and its intention to continue to commit systematic violations of it, which amount to war crimes and apartheid.
The inaction and failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for these crimes encourage the country to continue its crimes against Palestinians, whether by the imposition of a 15-years-old blockade or by launching military attacks.
The Israeli government’s policy of maintaining the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), coupled with the severe repression of Palestinians living in the OPT.
In 2021, in the West Bank, Israeli security forces killed 67 Palestinians – nearly triple the figure for all of 2020 – according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This total includes non-violent demonstrators as well as those alleged to have attacked Israelis.
The most bloody Israeli attack in recent times dates back to May 2021, when, amid discriminatory efforts to force Palestinians out of their homes in occupied East Jerusalem, 11 days of hostilities broke out in Gaza.
Human Rights Watch documented serious violations of international war crimes laws, including Israeli strikes that killed scores of civilians and destroyed four Gaza towers with no evident military targets, as well as indiscriminate rocket attacks fired by Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, towards Israeli cities.
During the fighting, the Biden administration criticized rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups but not Israeli conduct and proceeded with the sale of $735 million in arms to Israel.
On the other hand, the European Union condemned Israel’s settlement policy and abuses, but divisions among EU member states have frustrated attempts to adopt more forceful measures.
These attacks took place amid Israel’s closure policy (the movement restrictions of people and goods into and out of Gaza), which is exacerbated by Egyptian restrictions on its border with Gaza and has devastated the economy of the area as it robs its inhabitants’ right to freedom of movement – time-limited permits to enter Israel and large parts of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – and severely limits Palestinians of the region’s access to electricity, health care, and water. As a consequence, more than 80 percent of Gaza’s population depends on humanitarian aid.
Moreover, Israeli authorities maintained nearly 600 checkpoints and other permanent obstacles within the West Bank as of June 2020, routinely turning away Palestinians without explanation while permitting movement for Israeli settlers. As if it was not enough, the separation barrier in B’Tselem, which Israel said it built for security reasons, cuts off thousands of Palestinians from their agricultural lands. It also isolates thousands of Palestinians who live on the western side of the barrier but are not allowed to travel to Israel and whose ability to cross the barrier to access basic services is highly restricted.
With Naftali Bennett as prime minister, the government continued to facilitate the transfer of Israeli citizens into settlements in the occupied West Bank: Israeli authorities provide infrastructure and services for almost one million settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
But the difficulty in obtaining Israeli building permits in East Jerusalem and the West Bank under Israel’s exclusive control (Area C) has driven Palestinians to build structures that are at constant risk of demolition or confiscation for being unauthorized: 46 Palestinian communities in the West Bank are at “a high risk of forcible transfer due to a relocation plan advanced by the Israeli authorities,” and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem are at risk of displacement.
This is a clear violation of international law as it prohibits an occupying power from destroying property unless “absolutely necessary” for “military operations.”
The international response
Regarding the latest events in the Gaza Strip, there was a mixed reaction by the international community: while on one side we have Israel and its allies defending the air raids, on the other, there are those supporting the besieged territory denouncing the violence.
The Arab League – the regional organization which reunites countries belonging to the Arab world – “condemned in the strongest possible terms the ferocious Israeli aggression against Gaza” with the support of Tehran, which said the territory was “not alone” in its fight. Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar subsequently joined their positions, while Egypt, a historic broker between Israel and armed groups in Gaza, is working to calm the escalation.
The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, calls on all sides to avoid further escalation, too.
In the meanwhile, the European Union calls for “maximum restraint on all sides,” stressing that Israel “has the right to protect its civilian population.”
This position is reinforced by British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and John Kirby, US National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, who defended Israel’s attack on Gaza and urged both sides to de-escalate the situation. “We absolutely fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups that are taking the lives of innocent civilians in Israel. As for the two-state solution, we remain committed to a two-state solution. That was one of the president’s key messages on this trip, both to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. We still want to see that be the outcome, but both sides have to want it to. “