Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip ended at 2am on Friday, 21 May 2021, bringing to a halt nearly two weeks of concentrated attacks on civilians and civilian objects, including populated houses and residential complexes, as well as industrial and commercial entities, governmental offices, livestock farms and farmlands, banks, mosques, schools, and water, sanitation, and electricity infrastructure, other public and private properties, and thousands of square meters of paved roads. Over the course of the offensive, which began on 10 May 2021, Israel further escalated its violence against Gaza’s inhabitants by closing all crossings in and out of the Strip, thereby preventing the entry of food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies, which further exacerbated the humanitarian suffering of over two million people, in particular displaced families.
According to Al Mezan’s preliminary field monitoring and documentation, 248 Palestinians were killed during the offensive—including 66 children and 39 women, making up over 42% of all deaths. Another 1,291 people were wounded, including 289 children and 211 women, making up over a 38% of casualties. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing, 1,800 housing units were completely destroyed and 14,315 were damaged during the military assault. Seventy-four governmental offices were destroyed.
The humanitarian variables on the ground show that Gaza’s already catastrophic conditions will continue to deteriorate over the course of the next several months. This is due to the massive damage and destruction of houses, factories, and key infrastructure, displacement of thousands of families, the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak without sufficient vaccines, delayed relief operations that are subject to Israel’s unlawful closure restrictions, increased environmental pollution from the massive munitions used, lack of access to safe water, and steep decline in access to education.
Al Mezan reiterates its strongest condemnation of Israel’s targeting of civilians and civilian objects and emphasize that this latest assault occurred within the context of the occupying power’s systematic denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination, owed to its half-a-century-long belligerent occupation and even longer persecution of the Palestinian people.
Al Mezan stresses that decades of the occupying power’s violence against Palestinians, including and especially in the latest offensive, require serious actions in order for perpetuators to be held accountable and reparations to be made available to victims. It is clearly apparent, including through our documentation, that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been and continue to be committed in the Gaza Strip and across the occupied Palestinian territory. Al Mezan will continue to document and report these clearly apparent crimes and demand justice for victims, including for the overarching crimes of persecution and apartheid.
Ending Israel’s occupation will require a sustainable resolution that is in line with the principles of international law. Al Mezan recalls that the politicization of human rights issues exposes Palestinians to more violence and crime and, as a result, puts international security and peace at risk. The international community must stop its inaction, including its downgrading of the pursuit of human rights in the case of Palestine. It is Palestinian civilians who bear the brunt of the international community’s failure to adequately respond, as evidenced by the facts and figure of the past two weeks.
The international community must also support the UN Human Rights Council in setting up a commission of inquiry to investigate all potential crimes committed during Israel’s latest escalation, especially those potentially amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, in Gaza, the rest of the oPt, and Israel. Al Mezan also calls on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate, in particular, the intentional targeting of houses and whole families in their homes, in accordance with the Rome Statute.
Finally, UN agencies and international relief organizations must swiftly provide the aid that is needed to mitigate the impact of Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza’s civilian population, in line with international obligations and standards.