(Received from Amjad Shawa of the Palestinian NGO Network, I have tried to update some of the grim stats but of course the death toll and numbers of civilian buildings hit only keep rising…)
Since Wednesday evening, 14 November 2012, Israeli Occupation Forces have continued their offensive on the Gaza Strip, code-named “Operation Pillar of Defence” through aerial, marine and ground bombardment throughout the Gaza Strip, using missiles and artilleries. This is occurring amidst increasing Israeli threats to expand the offensive with a ground invasion; large numbers of Israeli troops have been deployed at the borders of the Gaza Strip, and it is reported that 75,000 reservists have been called up. Contrary to claims by the Israeli government that Israeli forces do not target civilians, the outcome of this offensive so far has indicated that only civilians pay the price. Over 70 civilians have been killed, including children and women, and hundreds more, including children and women, have been wounded. Israeli forces have attacked civilian facilities, including houses, mosques, churches and schools, and governmental buildings of a completely civil nature, such as the buildings of the Council of Ministers and the Civil Department of the Ministry of Interior.
Over the past few days, Israeli forces have intensified the bombardments in a serious escalation, targeting civilian lives and property. Recently, Israeli forces directly bombarded media offices in Gaza City, seriously wounding a number of journalists. There has been no safe place in the Gaza Strip, which essentially does not have any shelter where civilians can have protection from day and night bombardments. Approximately 1.7 million people have become under Israeli forces fire, and their lives are in danger. A number of people have been killed or wounded while inside their houses, as a result of the bombarding of residential areas and their vicinities, with bombs weighing up to one ton dropped by F-16 fighter jets.
During this offensive, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is dramatically deteriorating, especially with the closure of all border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel and the denial of entry of basic goods and materials into the Gaza Strip, including medical consignments, food and fuel. This is in violations of the obligations of Israel as an occupying power under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which requires Israel to facilitate the passage of medical and foods consignments to the civilian population in the occupied territory in all circumstances. We, Palestinian civil society organizations in the Gaza Strip, condemn the ongoing offensive by Israeli forces, and warn of further deterioration of the situation and its catastrophic impact on the lives of Palestinian civilians. We are concerned that the worst has not yet come, and unless the international community intervenes to stop this offensive, only Palestinian civilians will pay the price of this escalation. Even before this offensive, their suffering that has been constant due to the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip for more than six years; the recent crimes committed by Israeli forces will further deepen their suffering. The role of the international community is not just to condemn international crimes, but to act to prevent them from being committed. The failure of the international community to intervene to protect Palestinian civilians serves to encourage the State of Israel and its occupation forces to commit more crimes against them. Such crimes will continue as long as accountability is lacking and impunity for the perpetrators is pervasive. Less than four years ago, Israeli forces already waged an offensive on the Gaza Strip in late 2008 (“Operation Cast Lead”). After this offensive, the international community failed to assume their responsibility to hold the perpetrators of war crimes accountable.
Therefore: We call upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War to fulfill their obligation to ensure Israeli forces’ respect for the Convention, and to stop Israel’s systematic attacks against Palestinian civilians and their property.
We call upon the United Nations, represented by the Secretary General, to immediately act and intervene to protect international security and peace in accordance with the UN Charter. We express our deep shock at his decision to visit Israel and Ramallah on Tuesday, 20 November, without visiting the Gaza Strip which is currently under attack. This has serious indications that the Secretary General is following the US position of supporting Israel, the party which practices occupation and aggression, at the expense of Palestinian civilians who are the victims of the offensive. We call upon the Human Rights Council to hold a special session to address the situation in the Gaza Strip and take effective steps to stop the offensive. We highly appreciate Arab and international official and public visits to the Gaza Strip in solidarity with its people, especially the visits of the Egyptian Prime Minister and the Tunisian Foreign Minister, and call for more solidarity visits in the upcoming days. We call upon Arab civil society organizations to organize visits to the Gaza Strip in solidarity with the Palestinian people and rejection for the Israel’s offensive and crimes, and we highly appreciate the solidarity activities organized by them and call upon them to continue such important activities.
We highly appreciate demonstrations and protests by solidarity movement with the Palestinian people throughout the world, and express our full support for their efforts to pressurize their governments to intervene in order to stop the offensive.We call for establishing a safe passage to ensure the entry of medical and food consignments into the Gaza Strip, which is an obligation of the occupying power under international humanitarian law.
Signatories: – Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network, representing 130 Palestinian NGOs- The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights- Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights- Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights.