Friday, 03 November 2023 15:49

Israel-Palestine crisis: ‘It’s the innocent civilians who are losing’

© UNICEF/Eyad El Baba
Air strikes on Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip have caused widespread damage.

More funding is urgently needed for lifesaving aid in Gaza while concern is deepening over high numbers of civilians killed since the beginning of the crisis and human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Briefing reporters in Geneva on Friday UN health agency (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said that in Israel, where 1,400 people have been killed so far, and in Gaza, where over 9,000 have been killed according to Hamas run authorities, 70 per cent of the victims are women and children.

“It’s the innocent civilians that are losing here. Let’s think about the victims,” he insisted.

Proportionality in attacks ‘not respected’

UN human rights office (OHCHR) spokesperson Liz Throssell highlighted concerns over Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia and Al Bureij refugee camps in recent days with dozens of residential buildings destroyed, as well as the high number of casualties reported in the enclave and the “reported use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in some of the most densely populated areas in Gaza”.

UNHumanRights

“We have serious concerns that the principles of distinction and proportionality are not being respected by both sides,” she said.

OHCHR already said on Wednesday that given the high number of civilian deaths and injuries in Gaza and the scale of the destruction following Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia refugee camp, these could be “disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes”.

Hostages must be released

Ms. Throssell reiterated calls on Palestinian armed groups to “immediately stop launching inherently indiscriminate rockets into Israel” and “immediately and unconditionally release all the hostages they hold, in serious breach of international humanitarian law”.

According to Israeli authorities, 242 people are held captive in Gaza, including Israelis and foreign nationals. Media reports indicate that about 30 of the hostages are children.

The OHCHR spokesperson also recalled “the obligations of the de facto authorities to respect and protect the human rights of the people of Gaza”.

She highlighted that “the intentional co-location of military objectives and civilians or persons hors de combat with the specific intent of trying to prevent the targeting of military objectives is a serious breach of international humanitarian law”.

Israel has been alleging that Hamas uses civilians as human shields and hospitals and other civilian infrastructure for military purposes.

Funds urgently needed

“The situation has grown increasingly desperate” and the UN and partners will release an updated flash appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory on Monday covering the remainder of the year, UN humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA) spokesperson Jens Laerke said on Friday.

An initial flash appeal for $294 million to support nearly 1.3 million people, launched on 12 October, will not be enough, Mr. Laerke said. Now, 2.7 million people – the entire population of Gaza and 500,000 people in the occupied West Bank – require assistance with food, water, health care, shelter, hygiene and the cost of meeting their needs is estimated to be $1.2 billion.

Mr. Laerke noted that the original flash appeal is 25 per cent funded so far, the three main donors being the United States, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, or CERF — a multi-donor humanitarian fund — and Japan.

A Tribute to UNRWA colleagues killed in Gaza

Humanitarian pauses, key

To be able to deliver the aid, Mr. Laerke reiterated the need for humanitarian pauses. He stressed that such “deconfliction mechanisms” have been implemented in “many other contexts” including northwest Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

“It is not beyond our competency to set up and facilitate such mechanisms”, he said, which “require an agreement between those doing the fighting that they will stop”.

‘Ease the suffering’

Mr. Laerke stressed yet again that “our ability to ease the suffering of the Palestinian population” will also depend on the availability of fuel.

No fuel has been allowed into Gaza since the start of the crisis and OCHA said that because of the shortages, the operation of water wells and desalination plants in the southern half of Gaza “stopped almost completely” on Thursday. OCHA also said that “there is not enough clarity on access of people to water in northern Gaza”.

Mr. Laerke further stressed that the opening of border crossings between Israel and Gaza, such as the Kerem Shalom crossing which has been a key point of entry for goods until the escalation, will be “paramount”.

So far, aid has only been allowed in through the Rafah crossing from Egypt, with a total of 374 trucks entering since deliveries resumed on 21 October. The largest convoy, composed of 102 trucks, came in on Thursday. OCHA said that the available aid “remains insufficient to cover people’s basic needs”.

Gaza LEFT original

Rising West Bank death toll

Meanwhile in the occupied West Bank, Ms. Throssell said that from 7 October up to 2 November, 132 Palestinians, including 41 children, were killed – 124 by Israeli forces and eight by settlers. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed.

WFP_Media

She highlighted that Israeli forces have “increasingly used military tactics and weapons in law enforcement operations”, including an operation overnight involving airstrikes on Jenin refugee camp, and recalled that law enforcement is governed by international human rights law, “which prohibits the intentional use of lethal force except when strictly necessary to protect life”.

‘Dramatic escalation’ of settler violence

“Settler violence, which was already at record levels, has also escalated dramatically”, the OHCHR spokesperson said. Since 7 October there have been seven settler attacks on average per day in the occupied West Bank, more than a third of them involving the use of firearms.

“In many of these incidents, settlers were accompanied by members of the Israeli forces, or the settlers were wearing uniforms and carrying army rifles”, Ms. Throssell said, raising concerns over the “acquiescence and collaboration” of the authorities, as well as impunity.

“Despite hundreds of settlers being involved in this daily violence, since 7 October Israeli forces have reportedly arrested only two settlers for assaulting Palestinians and killing one Palestinian farmer,” she said.

The violence was also forcing entire communities from their land, which may amount to “forcible transfer”. Since 7 October, nearly 1,000 Palestinians from at least 15 herding communities in the West Bank have had to flee their homes.

Arrests and ill-treatment

Ms. Throssell said that since 7 October, Israeli forces have arrested almost 2,000 Palestinians.

“We have received credible and consistent reports indicating a further increase in the ill-treatment of detainees, which in many cases could amount to torture,” she added.

Two Palestinians arrested since 7 October have died in custody. OHCHR warned that those detained “are reportedly not granted due process and judicial guarantees, as required by international law”.