HRN has released a statement denouncing all attacks civilian populations in the current conflict in Palestine and Israel and calling for an immediate cease fire and other measures to protect civilians. The statement also calls on the government of Israel to end the underlying source of hostilities with the Palestinian people by ending its illegal occupation and apartheid policies, and on the international community to immediately intervene to prevent further escalation of conflict.
The full text of the statement is below and also available in pdf format: HRN-Statement-on-Palestine-Israel-Conflict-Oct-2023.pdf
Human Rights Now calls for an immediate end to escalating military operations and attacks on civilians in the conflict in Palestine and Israel, as well as for the roots of injustice to be addressed
Human Rights Now (HRN) expresses grave concern over the ongoing violence in Palestine and Israel. Both the targeting of Israeli civilians and the taking of hostages by Hamas, as well as the indiscriminate use of force, targeting of civilian infrastructure and widespread destruction of property in Gaza by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are inexcusable under international law, and have precipitated a dire humanitarian crisis.
HRN denounces all military actions targeting the civilian population as war crimes and urges all parties to immediately cease military action. It further urges Israel to refrain from any attempt at a ground invasion of Gaza, which would cause further victimization of people in Gaza.
1. Israeli and Palestinian Civilian Casualties
More than 1,300 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed in the attack launched by Hamas’ militant wing on October 7, with an additional 3,000 reported wounded. Concerningly, the majority of those targeted by Hamas appear to have been civilians, including children and the elderly, while at least 150 individuals have reportedly been taken hostage and transported into Gaza.
While the aforementioned acts are serious violations of international law, they can never be a justification for an ongoing military offensive that is causing grave harm to Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Over the past week, the indiscriminate retaliatory airstrikes launched by the IDF in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, have destroyed entire neighbourhoods and killed no less than 1,500 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians. The obstruction of foreign aid and the targeting of essential infrastructure will lead to further loss of civilian life, particularly with regard to the most vulnerable Gazans, including the more than 1 million children who live in the enclave.
Collective punishment against the population of Gaza, as well as the targeting of civilians and civilian objects, constitute clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
2. Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
The Israeli attacks have already resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which will only escalate if indiscriminate attacks continue. In less than one week, IDF airstrikes have displaced more than 338,000 Palestinians in the narrow Gaza Strip. While hospitals and UN schools are already inundated with those seeking shelter, the targeting of ambulances and other health services by IDF airstrikes has exacerbated the ongoing crisis, and constitute war crimes. Similarly, the bombing of the Rafah crossing into Egypt has effectively stranded Gazans, only serving to worsen internal displacement.
Civilian deaths and suffering are escalating as Israel tightens its 16-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, preventing foreign aid and vital resources such as food, fuel and medicine from reaching those in need. With water supplies having been cut and the enclave’s only power plant already having run out of fuel, Palestinians are left with no access to sanitation. Of particular concern is the fact that hospitals and other essential services are currently running on generators, which will only provide electricity for a maximum of a few days.
Collectively, the actions of the IDF have created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Gaza, an enclave in which, even prior to the latest IDF strikes, 81% of the population already lived in poverty and 63% suffered from food insecurity.
Further, on October 13, the IDF instructed the 1.1 million Palestinians living in northern Gaza to evacuate within 24 hours. As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the evacuation order will have a catastrophic humanitarian impact, and constitutes a crime against humanity as well as a blatant violation of international humanitarian law.
3. Ongoing Oppression of Palestinians
While HRN condemns the ongoing violation of human rights by both Israeli forces and Hamas as singularly unlawful acts, we recall that the violence and instability in the region is rooted in the systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people by the Israeli government and Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory in violation of international law.
Violence and unrest in the region are an inevitable result of Israel’s 56-year-long illegal military occupation against the repeated calls of the UN, including numerous Security Council Resolutions. In particular, the 16-year long blockade and closure of the Gaza Strip, which has kept more than 2 million Palestinians in an open-air prison, exemplifies the dire situation. The situation in Gaza is not an isolated problem, but an integral part of Israel’s apartheid policy against the Palestinian people, denying them fundamental rights such as self-determination and return. Israel’s persistent dismissal of warnings that it is in violation of public international law, as evidenced by reports and opinions by authoritative bodies such as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, fails to demonstrate a genuine commitment to ending hostilities in the region and the preservation of peace. Furthermore, the latest actions by the IDF demonstrate Israel’s tragic irresponsibility in failing to protect civilian lives and property in its use of force. Impunity for past alleged grave war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel in the course of its previous military offensives, including the 2009 and 2014 conflicts, has not been effectively addressed by the international community. Despite the commencement of an investigation by the International Criminal Court, the process is desperately slow and does not meet the urgent necessity of the current situation, amid ongoing grave human rights violations and a worsening humanitarian crisis.
HRN calls for an immediate cease fire by all parties. We urge Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release all hostages taken in the October 7 attack.
We urge the government of Israel to cease indiscriminate airstrikes and the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Gaza and to cease all violations of international criminal law, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law against the Palestinian people. Further, we urge the Israeli government to withdraw its evacuation order for the population of northern Gaza and refrain from any attempt at a ground invasion, which would cause further victimization of people in Gaza.
Moreover, we call on the government of Israel to bring an end to the underlying source of hostilities with the Palestinian people by ending its illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and its apartheid policies.
We also call on the international community, including the UN Security Council, to immediately intervene in the situation to prevent further escalation of conflict, especially a ground invasion of Gaza, and to make every effort to bring about an end to the conflict and facilitate a durable peace.
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