Saturday 15 May 2021 marks the 73rd anniversary of al-Nakba (catastrophe) of the Palestinian people, in which the crimes of forced displacement and ethnic cleansing were perpetrated against Palestinians and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and lands.
The same al-Nakba scenarios continue to be re-enacted and perpetuated, as in recent weeks, Israeli forces, with specious eviction orders, appropriated the homes of Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem, in order that these properties could be occupied by Israeli settlers, thus forcing the expulsion of hundreds of Palestinian residents from east Jerusalem.
The al-Nakba anniversary is marked by the flagrant attacks of the last five days on the Gaza Strip. International law has been egregiously violated by attacks on apartment buildings and houses and the bombing of homes while residents are inside especially at night; the latest attack occurred this morning when Israeli forces bombed a house in Al-Shate’ refugee camp at 1.30 am today while people were inside in their beds.
Israeli forces carry out indiscriminate acts of incitement and retaliation against Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as granting virtual impunity to vigilante groups to attack Palestinians; furthermore, they use live bullets against peaceful protesters in the West Bank causing significant fatalities and injury.
Israel continues to impose a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip, causing the degradation of the civil infrastructure including roads and water and electricity supply networks.
Al Mezan calls upon the international community to take meaningful steps to stop the forced displacement of Palestinians as well as the daily attacks against civilians and to provide them with protection against the human rights violations committed on an ongoing basis.
Al Mezan’s field monitoring indicates that the fifth day of attacks increased the number of Palestinian fatalities to 139, including 39 children and 22 women, while another 725 suffered injuries, including 145 children and 116 women. The number of targeted residential buildings rose to 51, including three tower blocks, bringing the total number of destroyed residential units to 219. Al Mezan’s fieldworkers estimate that this figure is likely to rise because some of the buildings were completely destroyed and evacuated. In addition, seven schools, four mosques, and hundreds of governmental sites have been damaged since the escalation started. Airstrikes also led to the large-scale destruction of power and water networks, as well as thousands of square meters of paved roads.
According to the data provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Israeli forces in 1948 controlled 774 Palestinian cities and villages, 531 of which were totally destroyed and the remainder were put under the control and jurisdiction of Israel. 800,000 Palestinians of 1.4 million living in historic Palestine in 1948 were displaced. Since then, the Palestinian population has multiplied and reached by the end of 2020 approximately 13.7 million. More than half (6.8 million) are living in historic Palestine, including 1.6 million who live inside Israel. According to UNRWA, the number of Palestinian refugees registered in January 2020 was 6.3 million people, 28.4% of whom live in 58 official camps of UNRWA in Jordan, Lebanon, Syrian, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The situation of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has become more tragic; their lives have continued to be at risk due to continuous Israeli human rights violations and the policy of impunity afforded to settlers and Israeli military personnel. The lives of Palestinian refugees, including their living conditions, have worsened due to the shift in the priorities of the international community and its silence, the absence of meaningful protective mechanisms, and the failure to guarantee Palestinian refugees the minimum requirements of a decent life. Palestinian refugees and their homes and property are still more likely to be targeted, and they are still deprived of their right to return and other fundamental rights guaranteed by the international covenants. Palestinian refugees have poor housing, poor educational and health services, a lack of facilities, infrastructure and clean environment, lack of job opportunities and increased rates of poverty and unemployment.
Israel continues to practice policies of racial discrimination and persecution against Palestinian citizens of Israel. It also continues to seize and Palestinian lands, destroying Palestinian territorial integrity, as well as isolating the population in the various Palestinian territories and imposing severe restrictions on the freedom of movement and the use of lands and resources. In addition, it continues to change the landmarks of the Palestinian lands, support settlement activities, more and expropriate homes as has been seen of late in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The last five days have constituted a horrifying illustration of Israeli’s policy of collective punishment of the two million civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
In a statement commenting on the latest developments, Mr. Issam Younis, General Director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, said: “Palestinian refugees are struggling since 1948 to maintain their dignity and are looking forward to return back to their homes which were displaced from. Their tragedy is repeated and the forced displacement follows them in light of the absence of accountability and the depravation of their fundamental rights. The international community must fulfill their legal and moral obligations to protect Palestinian refugees and enable them to obtain their rights”.
Al Mezan condemns the ongoing Israeli gross and systematic violations of international law, including the systematic and widespread targeting of civilians and their property in furtherance of a policy of colonization, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Al Mezan calls on the international community to exert pressure on Israel in order to stop commiting crimes against civilians in the oPt in general, including the holy sites, such as Aqsa, and to halt its policy of forced displacement. It also calls on the international community to provide immediate international protection as a first step toward the realization of the United Nations and the Security Council’s resolutions related to the conflict in the area, particularly refugees’ right to return, compensation and self-determination.