25 March 2019 – Palestinian Civilian Casualties

Excellency,

I write to you with urgency, warning of the dangerous escalation of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially at this moment in the besieged Gaza Strip. We appeal to the international community to act with responsibility to de-escalate the situation and to ensure the protection of innocent civilian lives. The Security Council in particular is duty-bound to act to avert another deadly cycle of violence and maintain international peace and security.

As I write to you, 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – children, women and men – are once again enduring the terror of Israeli airstrikes and bombings, bracing themselves for the destruction and grief that will surely follow for our civilians who have nowhere to shelter from such aggression and cruel collective punishment of the entire population. Over the past few hours, hundreds of missiles have been fired from Israeli warplanes at areas throughout the densely-populated Gaza Strip and Israeli tanks and soldiers are amassing at the borders of cause, causing fear and panic to spread among the population of yet another war.

The intensification of inflammatory rhetoric and threats by Israel, the occupying Power, should be cause for extreme worry for the international community, which has too many times stood by and witnessed the slaughter of innocent, defenseless Palestinian civilians. We urge that the early warnings be heeded and that action be undertaken, including immediate mediation efforts, with a view to preventing such brutality and devastation once again.

The Security Council must demand respect for international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, and for all of its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 1860 (2009) and 2334 (2016) and all resolutions pertaining to the protection of civilians in armed conflict. We also call, in this regard, for deployment of the good offices of the United Nations Secretary-General and his Special Coordinator, along with all concerned parties towards de-escalation of this dangerous situation and the protection of civilian life.

In this regard, I must also draw attention to the fact that the escalation of the past 24 hours has taken place against the backdrop of a series of Israeli attacks and murders of Palestinian civilians in the past week. Palestinian male youth have been specifically targeted by systematic violence that yet again affirms the occupying Power’s blatant disregard for Palestinian lives. This most recent cycle of began with the murder of four Palestinian youths within the span of 24-hours and has continued with utter impunity.

On 20 March, Israeli occupying forces’ killed Raed Hashem Muhammad Hamdan, 21, and Zaid Imad Muhammad Nuri, 20, opening fire on the two young victims as they rode in a car in Nablus and killing both of the young men. Just a few hours before, another young Palestinian, Omar Abu Leila, 19, was shot and killed in the village of Abwein, north of Ramallah, after occupying forces surrounded his home and unleashed heavy fire, resulting in his death. Ahmed Jamal Manasra, 26, also shot to death within this same 24-hour span by Israeli occupying forces. Eye witness testimony indicates that the young man was murdered in “cold blood”, constituting yet another extrajudicial killing perpetrated by Israeli soldiers, as he tried to help his family who had been involved in an accident at the southern entrance to Bethlehem.

In addition to the heinous acts of terror in the West Bank, the occupying Power continues to deliberately target Palestinian demonstrators in the blockaded Gaza Strip with live ammunition, rubber coated steel bullets, stun and tear gas canisters, causing death and injury to innocent civilians, including children. The toll of Israel’s brutality against civilians since the start of the Great March of Return protests on 30 March 2018 has reached 269 persons killed and more than 29,000 persons injured, with many disabled for life after being shot by ammunition that has shattered their bones and shredded their limbs.  The most recent victims of this brutality, in grave breach of international law, were Nidal Abed Al-Karim Ahmad Shatat, 29, who was shot directly in the chest, and Jihad Munir Khalid Harar, 24, who was shot in the head by the Israeli occupying forces on Friday, 22 March. Also yesterday, 24-year old Habib Al-Masri succumbed to his wounds sustained when he was shot in the chest at an earlier protest.

As the one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return approaches, we must again draw attention to these crimes and again appeal to the international community to act with urgency to deter the killing and injury of more innocent civilians.  In this regard, we recall the findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry (COI) established by the Human Rights Council to investigate the response of the Israeli occupying forces to the demonstrations. The COI’s findings point to alarming and grave human rights violations and possible war crimes, with the Commission finding “reasonable grounds to believe that demonstrators were shot in violation of their right to life, or of the principle of distinction under international humanitarian law” and that “the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces against demonstrators was unlawful.” We call for serious follow-up of these findings to ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable and to ensure justice for the many innocent victims.

Once again, I must stress that civilian lives are in danger as the cycle of violence escalates at a rapid pace. The Security Council must demand that Israel, the occupying Power, cease its military aggression against Gaza and cease all acts of aggression and terror against the Palestinian people. The world cannot remain silent as a defenseless people held captive under military occupation and blockade are systematically slaughtered. The obligation to protect civilians and to ensure respect for international humanitarian law must be upheld in all circumstances and Palestine cannot remain the exception.

This letter is in follow-up to our 662 letters regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which constitutes the territory of the State of Palestine.  These letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432-S/2000/921) to 15 March 2019 (A/ES-10/813-S/2019/—), constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people since September 2000. For all of these war crimes, acts of State terrorism and systematic human rights violations being committed against the Palestinian people, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

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

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

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Ambassador, Permanent Observer Mission

of the State of Palestine to the United Nations