On Monday, 18 January 2016, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) issued its annual report on Israeli violations of international human rights law (IHRL) and international humanitarian law (IHL). The report details policies and practices of Israeli occupation forces in 2015 that amount to violations of IHRL and IHL, as carried out against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
The report commences by providing a statistical brief on the violations that took place in the reporting period, where 28 people were killed, including four children and one woman, and 1,275 people were injured, including 132 children and nine women. The report indicates that the Israeli forces arrested 202 people, including 38 children during the reporting period.
The report presents Israel’s policies and practices against the fishing community in Gaza, which are implemented in the context of siege and closure of the Gaza Strip. The closure stifles economic activity and perpetuates a policy of de-development whereby unemployment and poverty levels increase annually. The fishing community remains one of the most vulnerable being subject to brutal practices by Israeli forces of restricted fishing zones (resting at 6 nautical miles) and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during constant arrests, attacks and harassment off of the coast. Al Mezan documented 126 cases of Israeli forces targeting Palestinian fishermen. The attacks resulted in the killing of one fisherman; injury to 29 fishermen, and arrest of 73 fishermen. Of the fishermen arrested, all were released after a period of several hours, except for five. The Israeli forces confiscated 21 fishing boats in 17 different incidents and destroyed fishing equipment in 16 incidents.
The report highlights Israel’s aerial attacks on different locations in the Gaza Strip. As a result of the attacks, houses and civilian facilities sustained damages and the local residents, particularly women and children, were terrorized. Al Mezan documented 29 incidents of air strikes.
During the reporting period, Israel’s occupation forces carried out frequent, limited incursions by land and sea into the Gaza Strip and arbitrarily arrested inhabitants, including those accessing Erez crossing. In 2015, the Israeli forces arrested 202 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, including 38 children. Of the total figure, 44 were arrested at Erez crossing, having been summoned for security interviews or received permits to cross. 73 of the 202 arrested are fishermen.
The report includes a reiteration of Al Mezan’s condemnation of the continued and systematic attacks by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. With the continuing attacks and policy of closure, Al Mezan highlights the lack of meaningful intervention and protection of the civilian population on the part of the international community. This gap has encouraged the perpetuation of policies and practices by Israeli forces and authorities that amount to violations of international law against Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to promptly intervene to lift the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, to ensure access to basic materials for reconstruction, food, clothing, and fuel, and to allow free movement of people. Al Mezan asserts that Israel’s collective punishment of Gaza’s population is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and as a comprehensive, widespread, and systematic policy, amounts to a crime against humanity.
Al Mezan reiterates its previous calls on the international community to take action to bring to a swift end the violations perpetrated in the occupied Palestinian territory. Al Mezan calls for those who are suspected of ordering or committing gross human rights violations and suspected grave breaches of IHL to be duly investigated according to international standards. Victims must be guaranteed access to effective remedies and reparation.