22 May 2004
Bertie Ahern T.
President of the European Council Letter to EU Presidency,
Calling for Immediate Intervention to Halt Israeli Violations in the Gaza Strip Reference is made to the open letter calling for action to protect Palestinian civilians sent to you by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights on 17 May 2004.
We are writing to you in support of this statement and to denounce the escalation of human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces at the occasion of the latest military operation that is started Tuesday 18 May in Rafah and that has so far resulted in the deaths of 42 Palestinians.
We believe that this matter requires your urgent attention and consequently call for immediate action by the European Union to bring an immediate halt to this escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.
Specifically, we appeal to you to mobilize the international community and dispatch an international protection force in the OPT to protect Palestinian civilians put an end to Israeli occupation.
As of the fifth day of the so-called â€œOperation Rainbowâ€? launched by the Israeli occupying force in Rafah, 42 Palestinians have been killed, including 17 children.
A vast majority of the dead were not engaged in fighting, many were killed inside their homes and some120 people were reported wounded moderately to seriously.
Most of the dead were killed by snipers or by helicopters firing missiles at armed men.
Contrary to Israeli Army statements, the movement of medical emergency services remained obstructed, or delayed for long periods of time, and many of the dead and injured could not be collected.
Just this morning a 3-year-old girl was killed by two sniper bullets in her head and neck.
In breach of Israel's obligations under International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the Israeli High Court rejected a third petition on 18 May 2004 submitted by 45 residents of Rafah to stop the expected demolition of additional homes in the area, thus vetting this process of massive house demolitions in the Rafah area.
As a result, Palestinian civilians residing in the vicinity of the borderline Philadelphi corridor were forced to vacate their homes before the beginning of the offensive, for fear of demolition.
This, however, did not save any lives as the Israeli offensive struck the neighborhood of Tel al Sultan, thus taking its residents by surprise and without a possibility to evacuate.
Dozens of other homes, as well as the water and road infrastructures were destroyed in this neighborhood encircled by tanks until yesterday.
On Thursday 20 May, the incursion was expanded to Brazil and As Salam neighborhoods where another 96 houses have been demolished over the past two days.
This amounts to a total of 5,102 homes that have been demolished in Rafah since the beginning of the month.
The Israeli Government claims that it only demolishes abandoned houses, where resistance fighters carry out hostile actions against occupation forces and has no intention of killing civilians.
However, the shelling of a civilian march on Thursday, which left 8 civilians dead, proves otherwise, as does yesterday's ruling of the Israeli High Court that rejected a petition requesting free passage of medical and humanitarian teams to the area under incursion .
Thus, while invoking the pretext of security, this cruel destruction and killing by the Israel occupying forces only breeds further contempt of Israel and leads to further acts of resistance.
Needless to remind that such practices represent a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949), which prohibits destruction of civilian properties, collective punishment and targeting civilians (articles 33, 53, 49 and 47).
More specifically, the Israeli authorities are in breach of their treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Israel ratified on 3 January 1992.
The Israeli State neglects its obligations as elaborated in the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comments on the human right to adequate housing, including protection from forced eviction.
Furthermore, Israel should be held by the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which defines both â€œpopulation transferâ€? (art.
7(1)(d) and 7(2)(d)) and the â€œextensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonlyâ€? as war crime (art.
While we appreciate your recent condemnations of Israel's widespread destruction of Palestinian houses in Rafah, we consider this insufficient in light of the rapid deterioration of the situation and taking into account that the international community's silence since the beginning of the current Intifada has only encouraged Israel to continue to perpetrate its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in total impunity.
We call upon you to intervene immediately to put a halt to the ongoing killings and house demolitions and to take actions to ensure the fulfillment by Israel of its obligations under international law.
We also call upon the European Union to refute the current process of politicization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to consider the Palestinian cause as a matter to be dealt with in a purely legal manner.
Finally, as the only sustainable way towards achieving just and lasting peace in the OPT, Al Mezan Calls upon the European Union to immediately dispatch an international protection force to ensure the protection for the Palestinian civilian population.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights