Today, Thursday 27 December 2012, marks the fourth anniversary of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip (code-named “Operation Cast Lead” (OCL)).
During this 22-day military operation, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) killed hundreds of Palestinians, destroyed and razed tens of thousands of residential houses, public facilities, and agricultural infrastructure, detained hundreds of Palestinians and subjected them to torture, and used civilians, including children, as human shields.
Operation Cast Lead was unprecedented in its scope and brutality.
The IOF attacked civilians and civilian objects in flagrant violation of international law, conduct that rises to the level of war crimes and may have constituted crimes against humanity, as described by the UN Fact-Finding Mission.
During the course of OCL, Al Mezan followed developments and documented the conduct of hostilities.
The evidence showed clearly that the IOF acted in serious violation of international law.
According to Al Mezan’s database, during OCL the IOF killed 1,411 persons in Gaza, including 355 children and 111 women.
The IOF killed 949 civilians and 230 members of police forces.
The IOF also destroyed at least 11,151 houses, of which 2,644 were totally demolished.
Another 30,000 residences at a minimum were slightly damaged.
The IOF razed 6,652 dunams (one dunam equals 1,000 square meters) of agricultural land, including 1,173 dunams that had often been razed in the past.
The IOF also destroyed 614 public facilities, 643 vehicles, 211 industrial facilities, and 705 commercial facilities.
Four years after this aggression, victims have not reached redress and justice.
The IOF instead took procedures to prevent them from achieving justice.
Four years after OCL, the IOF carried out its last aggression on Gaza code-named 'Pillar of Defense' on 14 November 2012.
During the eight-day aggression, the IOF killed 168 including 34 children and 13 women and injured 1,046 others including 301 children and 105 women.
In addition, the IOF inflicted minor damages to hundreds of residential flats.
The IOF damaged 2,111 residential houses including 1,985 houses which were partially damaged and 30 residential units which are part of a Saudi housing project in Rafah.
Of those 59 were directly attacked; including 42who were deliberately targeted by direct IOF attacks using the roof-knocking tactic.
Moreover, IOF attacks caused varying damages to 244 public facilities; including15 health centers, 90 schools, 2 universities, 50 mosques, 14 media offices, 2 UNRWA food distribution centres, 12 ministerial offices, 12 police/security stations, 71 vehicle, and 190 industrial and commercial facilities,189 agricultural lands which have an overall size of about 259,352 square meters were also damaged.
Four years after OCL, Al Mezan questions the failure of the international community to take tangible and effective steps to end the systematic immunity or to lay the foundations for accountability for violations of IHL and IHRL.
States and international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN, have described the Israeli siege as an intolerable form of unlawful collective punishment.
In the context of the siege, the systematic immunity, and the ongoing attacks against civilians, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns these Israeli acts and the silence of the international community.
Therefore, Al Mezan calls on the international community to promptly take effective measures to: Lift the unlawful and immoral siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by securing free passage of people and commodities, including the construction materials needed for the reconstruction of Gaza, without any further delay; Ensure the protection of civilians and their property and dignity in the face of the continuing Israeli attacks on the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt); Enforce international mechanisms of accountability for violators of international law, and provide redress for the victims of violations; and Accelerate the efforts to end the occupation and secure Palestinians’ collective right to self-determination in accordance with international law.
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights declares that it will continue its efforts to expose the flagrant violations of IHL and IHRL in the oPt.
It also will continue its work with international and Palestinian human rights organizations to exert pressure on the international community to end its policy of silence and to uphold its legal obligations, particularly those arising from the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure protection for civilians and pursue Israeli war criminals.