The FIDH Calls for the Immediate End of the Ongoing Incursion in the Gaza Strip

15/10/2004
Press release
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The FIDH Denounces a Cycle of Violations of International Humanitarian Law and Calls for an Extraordinary Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli military operation going on since 28 September 2004 in the Northern Gaza Strip in complete violation of international law. The FIDH recalls that the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 applies to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), as recenlty recalled by the Israeli Supreme Court itself in a decision dated May 30, 2004.

This Operation "Days of Atonement" is the most harmful ever conducted by the Israeli army in the Gaza strip. So far, this large scale offensive into densenly populated areas of the North of the Gaza strip, has caused the death of at least 97 persons in the Northern Gaza strip only whereof 49 were civilians (including 25 children), and injured over 400 people. 70 houses have been totally demolished and 200 houses partially demolished in this area, hundreds of agricultural lands have been destroyed. It is reported that between 2000 and 3000 people have left their homes in the Jabalya refugee camp. At the same time, other parts of the Gaza strip were targeted causing the death of 20 persons and injuring around 40 others. In Rafah only, 50 houses have been destroyed (PCHR figures). The FIDH considers that such excessive use of force constitutes flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.

The FIDH is very concerned at the successive incursions and subsequent violations of humanitarian and human rights law into the OPTs and in particular these last months in Gaza. The FIDH is alarmed at the repetition of a pattern of grave breaches of International humanitarian law such as the ones perpetrated last May in Rafah.

In a report published on 12 October 2004, following an investigation mission on Operation "Rainbow" which took place in the South of the Gaza strip between May 13 and May 25, 2004, the FIDH denounces the collective punishments imposed on the Palestinian civilian population as a reprisal of attacks conducted by certain Palestinian combatants: destruction of agricultal land, obstacles placed on the way of the wounded people during military operations, house demolitions, disproportionate use of force... (see: "War Crimes in Rafah, violations of International humanitarian law and Human Rights during Operation "Rainbow" (13-25 May 2004)", http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/opt402a.pdf)1.

The report shows that certain acts perpetrated by the Israeli Defense Forces during the operation « Rainbow » constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. According to article 147 of the Convention, certain acts such as wilful killing, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, or extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justify by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, constitute grave breaches when they are committed against persons or property protected by the Fourth Convention. The statutes of international jurisdiction- and particularly article 8 of the International Criminal Court’s Statute- consider that such grave breaches may amount to war crimes.

Without appropriate reaction from states concerned and international bodies, the cycle of retaliatory violence, targetting civilians is unlikely to stop. The FIDH recalls that International humanitarian law is designed to protect civilians, who are precisely the target of the current incursion. As a consequence, the FIDH urges the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to uphold their obligations to ensure that the fundamental rights of the Palestinian civilian population are protected.

The FIDH calls on the Israeli authorities:

- to immediately stop the escalation of violence against the civilian population in the Gaza strip;

- to conform to its international obligations to respect international humanitarian law and human rights;

The FIDH calls on the General Assembly of the United Nations, currently meeting in its annual session to :

- urge the Israeli authorities to immediately stop the escalation of violence against civilian populations in the Gaza Strip and the blatant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law;

- to recommend to the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Conventions the venue of an extraordinary Conference of the High Contracting Parties to examine the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (as a follow-up of the Conference that was held on 5 December 2001);

- to invite the government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the deposary of the Geneva Convention to undertake any preparations necessary to such a Conference.

The FIDH reiterates its call for the creation of an international protection force to prevent continuation of the violations.

The FIDH calls on the Security Council as well as all international bodies concerneed including the European Union to act urgently in this regard.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Médecins du monde (MDM) sent two simultaneous and complementary missions of investigation to the Gaza strip, see MDM report: http://www.medecinsdumonde.org

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