The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, explicitly prohibits an occupying Power from committing acts of violence, collective punishment and reprisal against protected persons, that is, the civilian population under its occupation. Regrettably, Israel, the occupying Power, continues to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and flagrant violations of other relevant rules of international law, including human rights law, as it continues its military campaign against the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
In military attacks carried out yesterday and today in the Gaza Strip by Israel, at least 11 Palestinian civilians were killed and more than 20 others were seriously wounded. Using tanks, bulldozers and fighter planes, the Israeli occupying forces launched assaults primarily on the northern town of Beit Hanoun, whose civilian population has repeatedly suffered from the occupying Power’s violent onslaughts. In addition, yet another extrajudicial killing was committed by the Israeli occupying forces, with the launching of a targeted air strike against a car in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City, which killed all five Palestinian men in the car. Moreover, the occupying Power has continued to carry out violent raids in the West Bank, particularly in the Nablus area, killing and arresting more Palestinians and further terrorizing the civilian population there.
This escalation in military aggression against the Palestinian people, particularly in the Gaza Strip, is indicative of the lethal and destructive policies that Israel, the occupying Power, is insistent on pursuing in blatant contempt for international law and in total contradiction to peacemaking efforts recently being exerted, including at the present moment here at the United Nations. This situation is even more worrisome in light of Israel’s illegal and provocative declaration of the Gaza Strip as an “enemy entity” last week. In this regard, it is necessary to draw your attention to the fact that, in addition to the looming threat to cut off electricity and fuel supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials have not ceased their military threats against Gaza, with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declaring just yesterday that “We are getting closer to carrying out a widespread operation in Gaza”.
Such real and threatened actions by the Israeli occupying forces bring only more suffering and hardship to the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza, who are already struggling to cope with the prevailing humanitarian crisis and the enduring negative impact of the collective punishment that continues to be imposed on them by the occupying Power, including, in particular, the closure of all crossings into and out of the Gaza Strip. In this connection, we believe it is necessary to reiterate that the Gaza Strip remains an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Fourth Geneva Convention is thus applicable to it.
The excessive and indiscriminate use of force against a defenceless civilian population is unjustifiable under any pretext and cannot be condoned under any tenet of international law. Thus, while we condemn the launching of rockets at Israeli towns and call for their cessation, we reiterate that reprisals by the occupying Power against the civilian population are strictly forbidden under article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable for its breaches of the Convention, otherwise it will continue to act with impunity towards the law, wreaking only more death and havoc in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The international community should address this serious situation and take the necessary measures to compel Israel to cease all policies and practices in violation of the Convention, other relevant provisions of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions and instead to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations forthwith.
The present letter is in follow-up to our previous 296 letters to you regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 28 September 2000. These letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432-S/2000/921) to 19 September 2007 (A/ES-10/400-S/2007/554), constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people since September 2000. For all these war crimes, State terrorism and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
In follow-up to the above-mentioned letters, it is my deep regret to inform you that at least 24 more Palestinian civilians, including children, have been killed by the Israeli occupying forces, raising the total number of martyrs killed since September 2000 to 4,703. (The names of the martyrs that have been identified are listed in the annex to the present letter.)
I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the present letter and its annex distributed as a document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.