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Press Release: Marking Human Rights Day

Al Mezan: the international community must uphold its moral and legal obligations towards the Palestinian people in the oPt

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10 December 2020 |Reference 77/2020

Every year, on December 10, Human Rights Day is celebrated. That same day, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a foundational document that has laid the foundation of international human rights law. Marking the day routinely features global efforts for the promotion of human rights.


This year’s Human Rights Day comes at a time of continued suffering for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) as Israel, the Occupying Power, continues to maintain an institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression, amounting to apartheid, over the Palestinian people. The many facets of Israel’s apartheid regime entail a wide range of systematic human rights violations against Palestinians, including their rights to life, dignity, and self-determination, as well as a government-led effort to silence opposition to Israel’s practices.


In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel continues to expand illegal settlements and related infrastructure, subjecting Palestinian residents to increasingly restricted freedom of movement through checkpoints, roadblocks, and other physical barriers. As Israel’s annexation of Palestinian land accelerates, settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties are reportedly increasing. This phenomenon has been compounded by the Israeli authorities’ failure to hold violent settlers accountable, ultimately inducing a cycle of chronic impunity. At the same time, Israel persists with its repressive measures against Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including punitive house demolitions, forced evictions and displacement, high taxes, and deprivation of construction permits.


In the context of the Gaza Strip, since 2007, Israel has maintained a comprehensive land, sea, and air blockade and closure considered an unlawful collective punishment of the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. The closure has led to the collapse of essential services, profound levels of poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, aid-dependency, and the contamination of most of Gaza’s water supply. Since 2012, UN reports have repeatedly warned that the Gaza Strip would become uninhabitable by 2020 should Israel fail to lift the closure. Yet, Israel has not only tightened its restrictions but also escalated its military bombardments on the Strip,  causing the vast destruction of residential buildings and industrial facilities—including factories, agricultural machinery, and livestock farms.   


Al Mezan documented 1,116 incidents of Israeli airstrikes and live ammunition attacks within 2020 alone. As a result, six Palestinians, including two children, were killed, and 55 others, including 15 children and a woman, were wounded. Moreover, the Israeli forces detained 47 civilians, damaged 24 houses, and made 52 land incursions while simultaneously conducting aerial spraying of herbicides. It is estimated that 3,330,607 square meters of Palestinian farmlands were harmed in these incidents.  


Rooted in severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods, Israel’s closure has also crippled Gaza’s healthcare system and subjected thousands of Palestinian patients with life-threatening conditions to additional suffering. Al Mezan’s documentation shows that, in 2020, five patients, including two children, died after they could not secure the required Israeli-issued permits to leave Gaza to receive medical care in Israel or the West Bank. At the moment, some 1,546 other permit applications are still pending, posing a serious risk to patients’ well-being.  


Meanwhile, on 6 December 2020, the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza reported that COVID-19 testing at the MoH Central Laboratory had come to a halt, as the stock of testing kits had been fully depleted. With the unsteady supply of medical equipment and the health sector standing on the brink of collapse due to Israel’s closure, medical teams in Gaza are struggling to contain the current surge in COVID-19 cases.   


Decades of dire living conditions and incessant crises amid the international community’s inaction have prompted despair and anxiety among the population,  as the enjoyment of their basic rights has become virtually impossible.


On this year’s Human Rights Day, Al Mezan reaffirms its strong belief in human rights principles and continued endeavor to their promotion and respect in the oPt. Al Mezan also stresses that the continuation of the Israeli occupation and systematic violations against Palestinians are a clear evidence of the international community’s failure to protect human rights, contrary to its claims. Therefore, Al Mezan calls on the international community to uphold its moral and legal obligations towards the Palestinian people by taking all possible measures to end Israel’s impunity, to activate the relevant mechanisms for the protection of Palestinian civilians, and to guarantee the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.