Escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine

Overview of Jenin refugee camp, occupied northern West Bank Overview of Jenin refugee camp, occupied northern West Bank © DZarzycka via iStock

Between deadly attacks, expulsions and segregation policies Israel is committing real war crimes and crimes against humanity

During the night of Monday, July 3, the Israeli army launched an attack on Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank. Jenin is a focal point of the conflict in the occupied West Bank, having long become a symbol of the Palestinians' struggle against Israel's government and the effective seat of resistance. The residents of Jenin camp, to date some 24,000 people, are descendants of Palestinians dispossessed of their land and homes when the state of Israel was created in 1948. The Israeli military operation against the refugee camp was the largest since the mass Palestinian uprising of 2000-2005. There has been bombardment from the air and invasion from the ground, using drones and helicopter gunships, missiles and heavy weapons. The U.N. human rights chief immediately condemned Israel's use of these types of weapons as not in line with international human rights standards and protection and respect for the right to life. 

In addition to besieging the camp and attacking it both by air and from the ground, the Israeli army targeted people and infrastructure, cutting off electricity, telecommunications and water. Israeli forces fired inside homes, destroying property and injuring residents. Defenseless civilians, ambulances, health centers and even mosques were targeted. The raid was justified by Israel as a response to "terrorists" inhabiting the camp. A group from Jenin responded to the raid by Israeli forces with a firefight, resisting the large-scale attack that continued into the next morning. At least 12 people were killed, including four children, and 140 others were injured. Damaged homes, most of which are now uninhabitable, total 900. Despite international media reports showing the tragic human consequences of the Israeli assault on the Jenin refugee camp, Israeli officials persist in rhetoric that labels the camp a "terrorist center" and all actions taken against its inhabitants of all ages therefore justified.

A UN delegation consisting of several senior representatives of the international community visited the camp and witnessed the destruction and shocking damage of the Israeli incursion. UNRWA said its health center was damaged so badly that it could no longer be used and four of its schools suffered minor damage. "But more than the physical damage," said Leni Stenseth, UNRWA deputy commissioner-general, "I saw the trauma in the eyes of the camp residents who had witnessed the violence." The UN agency urged donors and partners to make funds immediately available for its humanitarian response in the camp.

Sources of further protest and increased concern in the international community are the recurrent expulsions of Palestinians from their homes. On the morning of July 11, also in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli court order forced the Palestinian Ghaith-Sub Laban family to leave their home, in which they had lived for 70 years, to Israeli settlers. After facing 45 years of costly legal battles against Israeli government-backed settler organizations to displace them, dozens of policemen and paramilitaries raided the house and forced the family out before the settlers moved in. Israeli activists protested until late in the morning in front of the occupied home, while Palestinian civil society and rights groups had already issued a statement criticizing Israeli settlers' efforts to displace the family, saying it is forced relocation. The statement said that "the uprooting of Palestinians, whether through evictions, house demolitions or other discriminatory policies and practices used by Israel to forcibly relocate Palestinians from East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank, is a flagrant violation of Israel's obligations under international law." 

According to the Rome Statute, "deportation or forcible transfer" is defined as "the removal of persons, by deportation or other coercive means, from the region in which they are lawfully located, in the absence of any reason provided by international law permitting it," and is counted among both war crimes and crimes against humanity. In addition, the phrase "colonial apartheid" is also used in the declaration to refer to the situation to which the Palestinian population is subjected as a result of Israel's illegal occupation and, as also stated by Amnesty International in a February 1, 2022 report, "unlawful killings contribute to the maintenance of the Israeli system of apartheid and constitute crimes against humanity on a par with other serious human rights violations committed by the Israeli authorities, such as administrative detention and forced transfers," all actions explicitly contrary to the jurisprudence of the Rome Statute.

As early as 2021, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem and in Israel, had declared the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories illegal under international law, highlighting crimes under international criminal law, including war crime. The 65 Palestinian and international associations that signed the Commission's concluding report added that "the Palestinian people [have been] denied the right to self-determination, and have endured over 7 decades of colonialism and Apartheid by Israel and 55 years of belligerent occupation. Gaza residents [survive] in almost unlivable circumstances for 15 years, and Palestinian refugees [are] unable to exercise their right of return. For too long, the issue of Palestine has been treated as an exception to the implementation of international law." 

The recent spiral of violence has underscored the urgent need for accountability. In light of the legal evidence presented, there is no doubt that Israel has violated and is violating obligations under international law. The current situation is judged to be a failure on the part of the international community to take effective and meaningful measures to end the occupation, expulsions, and segregation regime.


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by Chiara Cacciatore

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