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Written statement* submitted by Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
The Israel's Aggression on Gaza*
Since the commencement of Operation Protective edge, an Israeli military campaign launched on 6 July 2014, Gaza has effectively turned into a horrific human rights and humanitarian nightmare. Throughout a full month of heavy bombing, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) reduced much of Gaza to rubble, attacking residential areas, hospitals, UN schools, and Gaza infrastructure with heavy artillery while repeatedly firing upon civilians during the ground invasion. While Israeli officials have maintained that the IDF utilises only precision strikes against known militants and does not target civilians, the veracity of these claims has been refuted by numerous reports of Israeli missiles hitting crowded markets, children playing on the beach, and even cafés filled with youth watching the World Cup. In short, these tragedies amount to nothing short of war crimes, and those responsible must be held accountable.
James Rawley, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territories said: “We are now looking at a health and humanitarian disaster” . The conflict has cost the lives of over 1800 Palestinians, of which 75% were civilians and 408 were children. More than 70% of all children killed were 12 or younger. On 5 August, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that roughly 520,000 Gazans had been displaced, half of which were taking refuge in 90 schools. UNRWA has stated that these shelters are overcrowded and pose significant risks of health epidemics due to a lack of clean water and sanitation. Additionally, nearly 485,000 are in need of emergency food supplies.
Targeting of Civilians
The humanitarian crisis is largely the result of indiscriminate bombing of densely populated residential areas and direct targeting of civilians, including children. Despite repeated pleas by the United Nations and international community to exercise restraint and minimise civilian casualties, the IDF repeatedly flattened entire residential complexes and neighbourhoods, often giving residents only 10 minutes notice before striking. In some cases, a warning missile or a “knock on the roof' was fired to alert residents of an impending attack, which sometimes caused additional deaths and injuries. Homes belonging to 65,000 displaced Gazan's have been so badly damaged that they no longer have a place to return'.
In several instances between 23 and 25 July, Israeli forces were observed firing on civilians attempting to flee fighting in Khuza. In one particular instance, a group of 100 civilians were ordered to leave a building in which they were taking shelter. The first to leave the house, Shahid al-Najjar, was shot in the jaw while he exited with his hands up. The International Red Cross reported that paramedic volunteers who attempted to rescue the injured were targeted, and one volunteer was killed as he was treating the wounded.
According to the New York Times, on 21 July, a strike hit an eight-story apartment building where officials had urged Gazan's to take shelter in downtown Gaza City. The building collapsed with rescue crews still inside, killing 13 and injuring scores more.
In another attack, an Israeli missile hit the Fun Time Beach café filled with youths gathered to watch the World Cup semi-final on 9 July. Nine were killed and 15 wounded aged 15-28.
On Wednesday, 16 July, eight boys searching for metal scraps on the beach were hit by a naval bombardment that left four dead and the other four wounded by shrapnel and severely traumatised.
The United Nations has repeatedly stated that the targeting of civilians in any conflict constitutes grave war crimes that cannot be tolerated.
Targeting of Civilian Infrastructure
In addition to the massive civilian casualties, survivors are facing a humanitarian crisis directly caused by the deliberate targeting of Gaza infrastructure. On 29 July, Israel bombed Gaza's only power plant, resulting in severe power outages across the city and majorly disrupting the telecommunications network. Consequently, many regions in Gaza currently receive just 2-3 hours of electricity per day and many areas in the centre receive no electricity at all.
The power outages have caused most water pumps and sewage stations to stop running, leading to a lack of basic sanitation and clean drinking water. Failed freezers and refrigerators have led to the exacerbation of food shortages, and a reliance on a limited daily distribution of water in many communities is leading to a health epidemic. An estimated 1.5 million Palestinians currently have little or no access to water supplies.
Additionally, Israeli forces have inexplicably destroyed several major factories in Gaza. The Al-Awda factory, which produced cookies, ice cream and sweets, was flattened on 31 July. The factory, which employed over 500 people, was not only Gaza's largest and most iconic, but it was also being used by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society to store rare medicines in the large refrigerators.
The factory's owner claims that due to $20 million in damages, the factory will likely never operate again. According to the deputy economy minister in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the deputy economy minister Taysir Amro said that the war had caused up to $6 billion in damage. The bombing of infrastructure and factories is a clear attempt to collectively punish the people of Gaza, and constitutes a serious war crime in flagrant violation of international law.
Israel has also targeted several hospitals and healthcare facilities since the beginning of the conflict. According to UNRWA, as of 2 August, one third of all hospitals, 14 primary healthcare clinics and 29 Palestinian Red Crescent and Ministry of Health ambulances have been damaged. Several dozen medical staff were injured in the line of duty and at least five were killed. Additionally, the report stated that at least 40% of medical staff are unable to travel to clinics and hospitals and that half of all public health primary care clinics are closed.
Israeli officials have attempted to justify the shelling on many hospitals, claiming that they are hiding weapons and missiles for Hamas. In nearly all attacks, however, such as the attack on the al-Aqsa hospital on 25 July, there is absolutely no evidence to support these claims.
Due to the Israeli blockade limiting imports into Gaza, many hospitals had already faced medicine shortages prior to the conflict, and reserves were quickly exhausted due to the constant influx of the wounded. Medical services and facilities in Gaza are now at breaking point as clinics and hospitals are overflowing with patients. Additionally, patients needing to be transferred out of Gaza for critical life-saving treatment and to free up hospital wards for the ever-increasing number of casualties are facing serious challenges, such as a lack of ambulances for transportation, and insecurity, which is limiting access to crossings2.
UN Schools and Universities
On 1 August, the IDF bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, one of Gaza's most prestigious universities, alleging that it was home to a weapons development centre. The university was previously bombed in the 2008 conflict by Israeli forces, who alleged its use as a weapons center. buildings and the Mission did not find any information about their use as a military facility or their contribution to a military effort that might have made them a legitimate target in the eyes of the Israeli armed forces.
In perhaps the most horrific attacks, the IDF also bombed seven UN shelters where Gazans had been urged to take refuge after being told to flee their homes. The most recent attack on 3 August, adjacent to a school in Rafah, where 3,000 Palestinians were taking shelter, killed 9 people, including 5 children. Witnesses say that victims were hit while waiting in line for food outside.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the event as “a moral outrage and a criminal act” and a “gross violation of international law”. The bombing of these schools is a clear demonstration of reckless targeting and carelessness by the IDF, who have shown little regard for the lives of Palestinian women, children, and other civilians. These atrocities stand in the face of justice, morality, and the law and must not go unpunished. Maarij Foundation and GNRD thus demand an immediate end to Israel's military campaign against the civilian population of Gaza, once and for all. Maarij Foundation and GNRD also call for an international investigation into these crimes so that the perpetrators can be held accountable and brought to justice.
* Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) NGO(s) without consultative status, also share the views expressed in this statement.