Israel Inflicts Illegal Collective Punishment on Gaza

Mourners at a morgue after an overnight Israeli air strike in Gaza City, July 13, 2014. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

Marjorie Cohn

Israel has commenced full-scale warfare on the people of Gaza. The recent tensions began about six weeks ago when Israeli forces abducted 17 Palestinian teenage boys in the occupied West Bank. Then, on June 12, three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the southern West Bank; Israel blamed Hamas. After the three youths were found dead, a group of Israelis tortured and killed a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. Then, on July 7, Israel launched a large military operation dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” in the Gaza Strip.

Mourners at a morgue after an overnight Israeli air strike in Gaza City, July 13, 2014. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)
Mourners at a morgue after an overnight Israeli air strike in Gaza City, July 13, 2014. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

During the past week, Israel has killed 162 Palestinian civilians and counting, including 34 children. In addition to more than 1,200 Israeli airstrikes, Israel has launched a ground invasion of Gaza. Israel attacked a center for the mentally and physically disabled in Beit Zahiya, killing three patients and a nurse. In addition, Israel has stepped up demolitions of Palestinian homes, and administrative detentions of Palestinians without charge or trial.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) reported that 77 percent of the people Israel has killed in Gaza were civilians. Although Hamas has launched about 1,000 rockets into Israel in the past week, no Israelis have been killed.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed alarm at the Israeli military operations as well as the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. “For its part, the Government of Israel must take all possible measures to ensure full respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack, during the conduct of hostilities, as required by international humanitarian law. In all circumstances, they must avoid targeting civilians,” she said.

In light of “deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes,” Pillay continued, “serious doubt [has been raised] about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

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