Israel is committing three war crimes in the Gaza Strip:
- The crime of collective punishment and the prevention of access to water, food, medicine, electricity, and communications to the Gaza Strip.
- The crime of genocide through indiscriminate and destructive airstrikes and bombardment.
- The crime of ethnic cleansing through the forcible displacement of 1.1 million people from the northern and central Gaza Strip to the south, and the continuation of the campaign to pressure them to flee to Egypt through continued airstrikes and killings.
Israeli onslaught has threatened the outbreak of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, and the bombardment has claimed the lives of 4,385 Palestinians as of Sunday morning, including 1,750 children and 976 women. An estimated additional 1,000 persons remain missing under the rubble, most of them children, while 13,561 people have been injured. Most of them cannot receive proper medical attention due to the deterioration of the status of hospitals as a result of the siege.
Israeli airstrikes are killing a Palestinian every 5 minutes, and a Palestinian child every 15 minutes. Reports from Gaza document the total or partial destruction of 133,000 homes, 10,127 of which are unfit for human habitation; the complete destruction of 14,200 housing units, 160 schools, 26 medical clinics, and 23 ambulances; the destruction of the third oldest Greek Orthodox church in the world, in which 18 Palestinian Christians were killed; and the destruction of the Omari Mosque, the oldest mosque in the Gaza Strip.
According to a report by the WHO, Israel has destroyed 136 medical facilities, in which 491 people were killed, including 46 medical workers, and the injury of 370 others.
It should be pointed out that the Israeli army threatened the bombing of the Palestinian Red Crescent Societies Al-Quds Hospital, which houses 400 patients and 12,000 refugees, which, had not the issue received widespread media attention, may have led to a repeat of the Israeli massacre at the Anglican-run Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, which independent analyses from human rights organizations proved that most of the evidence points to an Israeli missile from the northeast — and area under Israeli control — which disproves Israeli lies regarding the matter.
It needs to be asserted that the continuation of the Israeli airstrikes and the likelihood of a ground invasion threaten the killing of tens of thousands of innocent civilians.
It needs to be added that the primary Israeli plan of expelling the inhabitants of Gaza, which would then be annexed by Israel, failed due to the steadfastness of Palestinians and their refusal to be displaced, and due to the total Egyptian and Arab refusal of the ethnic cleansing plot.
Israeli government has now shifted to its “Plan B,” which is to ethnically cleanse all the inhabitants of northern and central Gaza, including Gaza City, and to annex them to Israel. This is the meaning of Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s statement that Israel will shrink the area of the Gaza Strip, and of the Israeli government’s announcement that this assault will continue for years.
Israeli assault is not merely a response, but an attempt to implement a plan that has been in place for some time to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people and repeat the Nakba of 1948, as a final solution to the “demographic problem” — that is, that the number of Palestinians in historic Palestine is equal to the number of Jewish Israelis in the same area.
If Israel succeeds in ethnically cleansing Gaza it will open the door to ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and the expulsion of its inhabitants to Jordan.
Humanitarian aid convoys
As of Sunday morning, Israel had not allowed for the entry of more than 20 trucks into the Gaza Strip, despite American promises. What is occurring is a farce, since the entry of a meager 20 trucks without any fuel will do little to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian catastrophe, since Gaza used to receive 500 trucks per day even before the war, and now it has been cut off from supplies for the past 15 days. As a result, 20 trucks will do little to meet a need that is estimated to be in the order of 7,500 trucks carrying food, medicine, water, and fuel.
It should be pointed out that Israel is forcing all aid to be delivered only to southern Gaza, preventing the delivery of medical supplies to central or northern Gaza and its hospitals. This means that Israel is trying to use humanitarian aid as an instrument to engineer the ethnic cleansing of northern and central Gaza, which must be rejected internationally.
A ground invasion will lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians, half of them children, and will lead to a regional escalation; therefore, what is required now is for an immediate ceasefire.
The West Bank is also being subjected to indescribable Israeli violations. The West Bank has been divided in 224 ghettos that are separated by 642 military checkpoints, the separation wall, and a network of settlements and racist settler-only roads. Many of these ghettos are completely sealed off, and even the transport of medical teams between them has become difficult, in addition to terrorist settler attacks with stones and guns against Palestinian cars on roads.
The colonial settlers and the occupying Israeli army are conducting terrorist attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, which have claimed the lives of 89 Palestinians since October 7, in addition to 248 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli bullets since the start of the year. This raises the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank to 337 since the start of the year, at least 50 of them are children, in addition to the injury of 1,440 Palestinians.
It needs to be added that settler terror has, to this moment, led to the forcible displacement of 20 Palestinian communities in Area C as part of a continuous process of ethnic cleansing.
Israeli soldiers are engaging in brutal reprisals against Palestinians at military checkpoints, in which they are beaten, harassed, and have had their vehicles smashed and their phones broken.
Israel has arrested about 1,000 Palestinians in the last week alone, which raises the number of detained Palestinian prisoners to 6,300, including 200 children. What enables Israel’s continued war crimes against all Palestinians is unconditional support of many Western countries with the United States at its helm, which makes all participating parties complicit in Israel’s war crimes.
I assert that an immediate ceasefire should be implemented while humanitarian aid should be allowed into the Gaza Strip, in order to then allow for a prisoner swap that paves the way for a political process which ends the occupation and apartheid to which the Palestinian people are subjected and to achieve a lasting just peace
October 22, 2023
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.