1 October 2004
Dr Jan Peter Balkenende,
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands,
President of the European Council Letter to EU Presidency, Calling for Immediate Intervention to Halt Israeli Violations in the Gaza Strip We are writing to your Excellency to express our grave concern regarding the recent escalation of human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces on the occasion of the latest military operation that started on Tuesday 28 September 2004 in the North Gaza area.
This operation has so far resulted in the deaths of 44 Palestinians, most of whom were unarmed civilians.
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 to the OPT to protect Palestinian civilians and to put an end to Israeli occupation.
As of the fourth day of the military operation launched by the Israeli occupying forces in North Gaza, 44 Palestinians have been killed, including 17 children, and 214 others have been injured.
Most of the dead were killed by missiles and shells fired from helicopters and heavy tanks in populated areas.
The movement of medical emergency services has been obstructed or delayed for long periods of time, and many of the dead and injured could not be collected.
Yesterday a tank shell killed 10 people in the refugee camp of Jabalia.
To date, dozens of homes and private property have been destroyed by the Israeli forces, making hundreds homeless.
The Israeli Government claims that it only attacks armed men in the area and has no intention of killing civilians.
However, the shelling of several civilian crowds and individuals proves otherwise.
Thus, while invoking the pretext of security, this cruel destruction and killing by the Israeli occupying forces only breeds further contempt of Israel and leads to further acts of resistance.
Such practices, which include disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force and collective punishment of entire communities, 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 Civil and Political Rights as well as the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to both of which Israel is a signatory.
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 a war crime (art.
While we appreciate the European Union's frequent condemnations of Israel's excessive use of force and the widespread destruction of Palestinian houses in the OPT, we consider this insufficient in light of the rapid deterioration of the situation.
The international community's failure to actively intervene since the beginning of the current Intifada has only encouraged Israel to continue to perpetrate its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law with total impunity.
We call upon your Excellency 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 protection for the Palestinian civilian population.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights Issam Younis