On the 11thAnniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifada: Al Mezan Calls for Protection and Respect for Civilian’s Rights and Accountability for Violators.Wednesday 28 September 2011 marks the eleventh anniversary of the second Palestinian Intifada (the Al Aqsa Intifada), which erupted due to a provocative visit by Israel’s then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, accompanied by a heavy Israeli police guard which shot and killed dozens of Muslim worshipers.
Despite the September 2005 implementation of a unilateral separation plan by the occupation forces in the Gaza Strip—carried out in order to end the various popular protests against the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) and the daily confrontations in the Gaza Strip—Israeli violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights standards against Gaza’s residents continue.
The occupation forces have continued the killing of civilians and destruction of their property in the Gaza Strip, which violates human rights and degrades the quality of life in the Gaza Strip. The blockade imposed by the occupation forces on the occupied Palestinian territories since 9 October 2000 and tightened on 17 September 2007 creates further hardship for the Palestinian population.
The IOF has committed grave human rights violations, while the Israeli siege has played a major role in exacerbating the situation of the Gaza Strip’s population.
Tens of thousands of people have been forcibly displaced from their homes due to IOF demolitions during “Operation Cast Lead,” the last major act of aggression against the Gaza Strip.
In addition, the suffering caused by the substandard level of basic services, including health, water and sanitation, caused by the destruction of facilities and the blockade against entry of materials and equipment necessary for repair and development, must be recognized.
The anniversary of the Intifada comes at a time when the IOF has escalated its violations of human rights in East Jerusalem, carrying outhouse demolitions and forced evictions of Palestinian residents, including elected representatives and political leaders of Palestine.
Israel’s construction of the separation wall and settlements is continuing inside the West Bank and is met with silence on the part of the international community, which is undertaking no action to implement the findings of the International Court of Justice, which has concluded that the construction of the apartheid wall is illegal.
The Israeli Occupation Forces continue to violate international law by imposing so-called “restricted areas,” which have resulted in the theft of 17% of Gaza’s total geographical area and 35% of lands devoted to Palestinian agriculture, the basic source of livelihood for thousands of Palestinian families.
The “restricted areas” policy has negatively affected the Palestinian economy and the Gaza Strip’s food supply, in addition to causing the killing and injuring of farmers and other people who approach these areas.
The Israeli Occupation Forces also enforce a no-go zone beyond three nautical miles off the Gaza Strip’s coast. This prevents Palestinian fishermen from reaching the fishing areas along the coast.
Even when the fishermen stay inside the designated fishing zone, they face recurring attacks and are subjected by the IOF to cruel and degrading treatment.
The IOF has arrested dozens of fishermen without any pretext and destroys fishermen’s tools and equipment with the purpose of discouraging them from practicing their trade.
According to the information collected by Al Mezan, since the start of the Intifada 59 fishermen have been arrested, the IOF has opened fire on fishing vessels 229 times, in which six were killed and 22 injured. Moreover, 67 boats have been confiscated, and there have been 16 instances of equipment being damaged.
The silence of the international community, and its abandonment of its legal obligations, have only allowed further violations of international law to occur in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
In the West Bank, the confiscation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes, and institution of an apartheid-like segregation regime, manifested in the construction of the separation wall and Jewish-only settlements and roads have become official Israeli policy, which has continued despite the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.
The construction of the wall represents a serious affront to international law, and all settlement activities are much more than “an obstacle before peace”—they are direct and grave breaches of international law.
In the Gaza Strip, the IOF also continues to act in serious violation of international law, including the commission of acts that amount to war crimes and are tantamount to crimes against humanity.
According to Al Mezan’s documentation, the scale of victimization and material damage has increased during the last nine years due to the IOF’s escalation of human rights violations. During these years, in the Gaza Strip alone the IOF has killed 4,661 Palestinians, 1060 of whom were children and 221 women.
The IOF has also destroyed 18,862 Palestinian houses, 5,687 of which were completely destroyed, and leveled 13,174 dunams of agricultural land (one dunam equals 1,000 square meters). The IOF has destroyed 990 public facilities, including schools and places of worship, 2,006 commercial facilities, 518 industrial establishments, and 1,221 vehicles.
As a result of the siege, the humanitarian and human rights situation continues to deteriorate; sick people have died as a result of their inability to access medical care outside Gaza. Living standards have reached an unprecedented low, with approximately 80 percent of Gazans living in poverty. More than half of these live in extreme poverty that seriously harms their human rights and dignity.
Al Mezan asserts that many of Israel’s violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories constitute war crimes and may constitute crimes against humanity, the perpetrators of which must be brought to justice. Israel bears a clear responsibility to bring these violations to an end, to investigate and prosecute those among its citizens who have perpetrated such violations, and to ensure reparations for the victims.
Al Mezan supports all efforts aiming to ensure accountability for human rights and IHL violations as the only way to ensure justice for the victims of Israeli crimes. The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights emphasizes that an end to this decades-long conflict cannot be achieved without the firm foundation of a peaceful settlement in principles of justice and respect for human rights and international law.
In light of the above, Al Mezan calls upon the international community to end its policy of sacrificing human rights and international humanitarian law in pursuit of a “peace” settlement. The past decades indicate that this approach is doomed: it ensures neither peace nor respect for human rights and dignity.
Furthermore, Al Mezan calls on the international community to act upon its obligations to ensure that the Palestinian people enjoy their individual and collective rights in accordance with international law alongside their right to establish an independent state.