Archives for 17 September 2020

17 September 2020 – Israeli Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

Excellency,

I write to draw your attention to the critical situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, due to the ongoing and escalating illegal policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, perpetrated relentlessly against the Palestinian people.

As the COVID-19 pandemic remains the most dangerous challenge affecting all of our countries and peoples and requiring an unprecedented global response, Israel insists instead on carrying on with its illegal policies and practices, compounding the vulnerability and needs of the Palestinian civilian population under its illegal occupation, compromising their ability to confront the pandemic, and further destabilizing the already-volatile situation on the ground. Violent attacks against Palestinian civilians, destruction and appropriation of property, forced evictions and displacement, expansion of illegal settlements, massive arrest campaigns, and acts of incitement and provocation, including at holy sites in Occupied East Jerusalem, continue to be perpetrated on a daily basis by the Israeli occupying forces and extremist Israeli settlers.

While some may have normalized these actions against our people and land, there is nothing normal or humane about them and all constitute grave breaches of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, and violations of Israel’s obligations under the relevant United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), which specifically calls for an end to Israel’s settlement activities and an end to all acts of violence, provocation and incitement and moreover an end to the Israeli occupation of our land since 1967, including of East Jerusalem.

While the international community focuses on mitigating the severe effects and consequences of COVID-19, the Israeli government is exploiting this period to escalate its violations to accelerate its settlement colonization and annexation schemes and further entrench its military occupation. Such unlawful and aggressive behavior is deepening the suffering of Palestinian civilians, including children, women and elderly, against the backdrop of the worries and fears caused by pandemic, and is taking us farther and farther away from the a viable and just solution to this grave injustice. Those who speak of peace and coexistence cannot continue to ignore the reality of all of these illegal actions that actually preclude the possibility of peace and coexistence and only perpetuate conflict and suffering.

The following are just some of the countless grave violations perpetrated by the occupying Power in the recent period:

On 19 August, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Damer Matar, was shot and detained by Israeli occupying forces in the occupied West Bank. The next day, 20 August, the occupying forces contacted Mohammed’s family informing them that he had been killed. While the circumstances in which the boy was killed remain unclear, his body has not been returned to his family and his remains are being held by the Israeli authorities at the Abu Kabir Forensic Medical Institute in Tel Aviv. This inhumane practice of necroviolence by which the occupying Power seizes and withholds the bodies of Palestinians it has murdered constitutes a blatantviolation of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Israeli human rights organization and legal center Adalah reports that Israel is the only country in the world with such a policy of confiscating human remains. This cruel, immoral policy severely impacts the families of Palestinians killed by the occupying forces, tantamount to collective punishment as they are prohibited from burying their loved ones in accordance with cultural and religious rituals.

On 24 August, Israeli occupying forces demolished two Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem under the pretext of construction without a permit. Shortly after, occupying forces issued demolition orders to two Palestinian homes in Al-Maniya near Bethlehem under similar pretexts. As the occupying Power, and as repeatedly reported by UNSCO, Israel makes it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits, restricting and impeding the development and wellbeing of the occupied Palestinian population and using this as a pretext to continue the seizure and demolition of their homes. Israel’s punitive home demolitions and forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians is in flagrant violation of international law and has not ceased even in this time of pandemic, rendering hundreds more Palestinians homeless.

According to a report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 26 August, Israel has persisted with its demolition of Palestinian homes despite an announced “moratorium”. As per the report, home demolitions have risen nearly 40% above the 2019 monthly average. A total of 33 people were displaced as a result and over 350 others had their livelihoods or access to services affected. A total of 388 structures have been demolished or seized as of the end July 2020. According to a statement released by European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah, a total number of 107 residential units and 46 other units (shops, storerooms etc.) were demolished in 2020 in East Jerusalem alone as of 31 August. Moreover, Israel forces Palestinians to destroy their own homes or risk hefty military demolition fees. As a result, poor and vulnerable Palestinian families resort to self-home demolitions, which highlights a new level of human rights violations being committed against the Palestinian people.

In addition to punitive home demolitions, holy sites and houses of worship also remain in the crosshairs of Israel’s brutal policies and practices. An Israeli court issued a demolition order for the Qa’qa Bin Amr Mosque in Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, again cynically citing lack of a construction permit. Not only is this a violation of international law, it is also a violation of relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions which prohibit any attempts to alter the character, demographic composition and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem and of the protections afforded by international law to religious sites.

Despite Israeli lockdown measures to halt spread of the coronavirus, violence perpetrated by extremist Israeli settlers has also continued unabated in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem. Under the watch of occupying forces, armed and fanatic settlers continue to attack defenseless Palestinian civilians across the occupied West Bank. OCHA has reported recent incidents of settler violence targeting Palestinian civilians and vandalizing Palestinian-owned property, including the uprooting or destruction of 650 trees and saplings and damage to at least 16 dunums of crops, harming the sustenance and livelihoods of Palestinian families. A 21-year-old Palestinian man also died during this period after being struck by a vehicle driven by an Israeli settler south of Tulkarem.

Such incitement, intimidation, harassment, provocation, vandalism, and other criminal acts are perpetrated daily by Israeli settlers in order to assert their illegal presence on, and control of, Palestinian land, with little to no interference from the occupying authorities. Settler violence is without doubt a crucial part of the occupation’s strategy to accelerate its displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people, paving way for Israel to exploit more land and resources, coupled with its dangerous desire and plans for annexation.

At the same time, Israel persists with all of its repressive measures against Palestinian civilians, including massive arrest campaigns and raids. On 8 September, Israeli occupation forces arrested more than 50 Palestinians in Al-Khalil area, including in Yatta, al-Dahriyeh, Bani Naim, Arroub refugee camp, Beit Ummar, Sair and Sourif. On 15 September, occupying forces arrested 15 Palestinians, including three children, in multiple raids in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Issawiya and al-Tur. On 16 September, occupying forces detained 12 Palestinians, including a mayor, from various parts of the occupied West Bank. More than 3,000 Palestinians have been arrested as of the start of 2020 until the end of August and continues to carry out violent military raids and arrest campaigns, with utter disregard for the state of emergency declared in the West Bank due to the pandemic and disregard for the well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under its full control, in grave violation of international humanitarian law.

On 13 September, the Israeli government approved the construction of nearly 1,000 new settlement units in the illegal settlement of “Efrat”, near Bethlehem. As reaffirmed by the UN Special Coordinator in briefings to the Security Council, and as detailed in our previous letters, Israeli settlement construction, expansion and annexation threats have continued unabated. Israel’s obsession with devouring Palestinian land for illegal settlement activities is in blatant violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions and further shatters the contiguity of Palestinian land, destroying the viability of the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders. This reality has to be confronted by those who profess commitment to the solution of two States on this land and requires immediate measures of accountability.

Simultaneously, the inhumane, illegal Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip continues to inflict misery on the Palestinian civilian population there. Gaza’s sole power plant was forced to completely shut down due to the occupying Power’s suspension of fuel shipments. The over 13-year blockade has forced Gaza’s two million inhabitants to live in deplorable humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions, with repeated military strikes and suffocating movement restrictions being Israel’s preferred policies. Coupled with an electricity crisis that provides a supply for only a few hours a day, Gaza’s overburdened health care system cannot cope with additional suspensions or reductions of power sources while facing the threat of COVID-19.

Preventing the passage of relief consignments, such as fuel and electricity, is a violation of international humanitarian law and further undermines Gaza’s medical facilities and the delivery of other vital civilian needs. As the occupying Power, Israel is obligated to ensure access to appropriate medical equipment and care to effectively address the needs of the millions of people under its control. Moreover, other punitive measures, such as closing down the fishing zone and repeated assaults, must be addressed as the occupying Power bears responsibility to adhere to international law without exception.

Faced with all of the above, we remain grateful for the assistance being extended to the Palestinian people from across the globe and in spite of the challenging circumstances facing countries in this era of COVID-19. This includes in particular the vital assistance being provided through UNRWA, OCHA, UNICEF, WHO, WFP and other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations on the ground and by the international donor community.

Yet it remains the occupying Power’s obligation first and foremost to fully respect and abide by international law and international humanitarian law and to ensure the well-being of the occupied population. Regrettably, Israel has abandoned its legal obligations as an occupying Power and continues to exploit the pandemic by entrenching its 53-year brutal occupation and pursuing its evident annexation intentions. We reiterate our appeal to the international community to give this matter due and urgent attention and to act to ensure accountability.

The failure to hold Israel accountable has greatly emboldened its impunity, allowing the prolongation of this illegal, colonial foreign occupation for decades without upholding even the most basic tenets of international law. The negative, dangerous and dark trends created by the illegal occupation must be reversed through accountability to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, and to ultimately bring an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and an end to this historic injustice with a just resolution of the Palestine question in all its aspects in line with international law and the relevant UN resolutions.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the text of the present letter made available to the members of the Security Council for their immediate, valuable consideration and also distributed as an official document of the Security Council.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

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Dr. Riyad Mansour

Minister, Permanent Observer