A new crisis began on June 25 following the capture of an Israeli soldier in a military operation against an Israeli military post on Gaza border.
Palestinian armed groups say their action came after a series of Israeli extra-judicial executions of leaders as well as the killing of numerous Palestinian civilians in Israeli raids over the previous weeks.
They called for a prisoner swap, which was rejected by Israel, and the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) sent troops and heavy arms into Gaza.
The military actions have disconnected the Strip from the outside world, destroyed much of the infrastructure and are threatening a severe humanitarian crisis for the 1.
4 million- strong population within its borders.
Measures being used by Israel are violating the main pillars of international humanitarian law, namely the principles of proportionality and distinction, and as a result large numbers of civilians, including many children, are being killed indiscriminately.
Due to the serious increase of human rights violations by Israel, namely the wide- scale killing of civilians, destruction of civilian property and infrastructure, methods of collective punishment, extra-judicial assassinations, and the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Gaza Strip since Israeli began this latest incursion, Al Mezan is highly concerned about the wellbeing of Palestinians living in Gaza.
The humanitarian decline is now affecting the most basic survival needs of the population, and an urgent and effective international intervention is imperative to ensure respect for human rights and the principles of international humanitarian law (IHL), to halt the impunity and brings the perpetrators of the war crimes being committed to justice.
This is especially important in light of new threats by Israel that the incursion could continue for several months.
Al Mezan stresses the need for withdrawal of forces, a halt to the attacks that are targeting civilians, and stresses that the perpetrators of such military commands are responsible for having committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip, according to international law.
The escalation aggravates an already existing humanitarian disaster, which began in March 2006 following the sudden withdrawal of international financial assistance to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel's retention of Palestinian assets which, together, account for 70% - 80% of the PNA budget.
This has brought the Palestinian public service framework to the brink of paralysis, and according to the World Bank, OCHA and UNRWA, poverty and unemployment rates thereafter witnessed a serious increase, reaching 78% and 40% respectively in the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan had previously warned of the humanitarian consequences of this crisis, caused by the actions of Israel and the donor community, however it has only worsened.
This report is a factual and analytical legal report on the recent IOF incursion into Gaza which has severely provoked this economic and humanitarian downfall.
It describes the principal military actions that have been conducted by the IOF according to Al Mezan field investigations, the consequences of these measures with regards to the civilian population, and the implications with respect to the legal obligations of Israel, Palestinian groups and the international community to protect Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
In the context of attacks on civilian objects, which have been frequent and are continuing, the report looks at some extremely serious incidents that have occurred over the reporting period and provides information on the harsh IOF actions that have affected civilians over the past months.
The report aims to provide tools for civil societies, governmental entities and all stakeholders for steps to be taken to halt the impunity and the ongoing violence, which is spiralling out of control as Israeli ground forces penetrate deeper into the Gaza Strip and inevitably into more densely populated areas, threatening further civilian evacuations and casualties.