On Monday, 01 June 2014, Hamdi Shaqqura, Deputy Director for the Programs Affairs of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), gave his testimony before the UN Special Committee to Investigate the Israeli Practices Affecting the Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs in the 1967 Occupied Territories. Shaqqura gave his testimony via Skype as a result of preventing the Committee members from enter the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), in addition to the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. The Israeli authorities refuse to officially receive the Committee and deny it access to the oPt. Therefore, the committee has worked over the past year in Cairo, Amman and Damascus.Shaqqura reviewed the Israeli violations of human rights and the international humanitarian law against Palestinian civilians as he shed the light on two main issues. The first one was about the use of excessive force by the Israeli forces disproportionally and indiscriminately against Palestinian civilians, and the second one was about the closure and collective punishment imposed on the Gaza Strip for 7 years.
The Committee was provided with complete information about the crimes committed by the Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the oPt in 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, in disregard for the principles of distinction and proportionality. According to PCHR’s documentation, 41 civilians, including 6 children and 2 women, were killed, and 296 persons, including 142 children and 10 women, were wounded in 2013. During the first quarter of 2014, 20 persons, 11 of whom are civilians, including 2 children and a woman, were killed, and 259 persons, 255 of whom are civilians, including 53 children, were wounded.
While giving examples of these crimes, it was emphasized that they were unjustified and retaliatory crimes against civilians. Of these crimes was the killing of Hala Abu Sbeikhah (3). On 24 December 2013 and following shooting an Israeli soldier stationed along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Israeli forces heavily shelled civilians houses, including a house which was around 700 meters away from the border, east of al-Maghazi refugee camp. The shelling retaliatory as the building is known as a residential house and there were no armed clashes in its vicinity. However, the Israeli tanks stationed along the border fired 3 artillery shells, due to which the child was killed, and a woman and her two children were wounded.
Other willful killing crimes, which were committed without any justification and without the victims having posed any threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers, were also highlighted, especially those committed in the Access Restricted Areas (ARA) on the Gaza Strip. Of those crimes was the killing of Amnah Qudeih, who had mental problems, when she approached the border in Khuza’a village, east of Khan Younis, on 28 February. Israeli forces fired at Qudeih though it was clear that she was civilian. She bled to death.
The testimony also addressed the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. Shaqqura warned of the ongoing institutionalization and acceptance of the closure at the international level. Although the Israeli authorities claimed new facilitations to the closure, they are only superficial facilitations and do not solve the crisis. Civilians’ conditions continue to deteriorate and will not end unless the closure is completely lifted. In the same context, the testimony pointed out that in 2013, Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), which is the only commercial crossing along the Gaza Strip borders, was closed for 138 days, and no construction or industrial raw materials were allowed into the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the almost-complete ban on the Gaza Strip’s exports is still imposed.
In the end, the international community was called for taking measures to confront the continued Israeli challenge of the international will and international law. It was also emphasized that the Committee was denied access to the oPt to listen to the testimonies as Israel refused to allow it to enter the oPt. Moreover, the outgoing UN Special Rapporteur, Richard Folk, was as well denied access to the oPt. The international community was also demanded to intervene to end the occupation and lift the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.