9 July 2015 – One Year Since the Israeli War on Gaza

Excellency,

It is with deepest regret and sorrow that we recall the horror and devastation inflicted on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip last year at this time by Israel, the occupying Power. One year has passed since the onset of Israel’s criminal war against Gaza, where the occupying forces killed and injured thousands of innocent Palestinian children, women and men; caused massive forced displacement; inflicted widespread and wanton destruction to homes, schools, hospitals and vital civilian infrastructure; and terrorized and traumatized the entire civilian population.

As witnessed by the world throughout July and August 2014, it was impossible in besieged Gaza to find safe refuge anywhere from this savage Israeli air, land and sea onslaught. Palestinian civilians were killed and injured in their homes, in hospitals, in playgrounds, on beaches, in UNRWA schools where they believed they were protected by the UN flag, and in the streets of their neighborhoods as they tried to escape the Israeli missiles, one-ton bombs and fire raining down upon them indiscriminately, shattering lives and families and reducing communities to rubble.

As we remember the staggering human toll of this 51-day Israeli military aggression – the third such major military aggression against the Palestinian people in six years and deadliest since the start of the occupation in 1967 – we recall the statement by Commissioner-General of UNRWA Pierre Krähenbühl that “Behind the figures lie multiple individual destinies now torn apart, a reality no number can translate”.

  • 2,251 Palestinians were killed, the majority civilians, among them 299 women and 551 children, from babies of one week old to 17 years of age, the majority under the age of 12 (a list of the children killed by Israel in 2014 in Occupied Palestine is attached to this letter)
  • 142 families suffered the killing of three or more of their family members in Israeli airstrikes and bombardments. 89 entire families were killed.
  • 11,231 Palestinians were injured, including 3,540 women and 3,436 children. The severity of injuries were so vast due to the weaponry and wide-impact explosives used by the occupying forces that an estimated 10% of the civilians injured will suffer life-long disabilities, among them 1,000 children.
  • 1,500 children were orphaned, their mothers and fathers killed in the Israeli attacks.
  • 23 health personnel were among the killed, 83 were injured. 11 UNRWA staff members were killed.
  • Civilians continue to be killed and injured by thousands of unexploded Israeli ordnance that remain scattered throughout Gaza.
  • Nearly half a million children require psychosocial support to counter the trauma endured, and collective trauma and emotional distress due to loss of a family member, injury, multiple displacement and panic due to feelings of isolation and insecurity continue to permeate all segments of the population and all areas of life, constituting a public-health crisis.
  • At least half a million civilians, equivalent to 28% of the population of Gaza, were forcibly displaced from their homes at the height of the aggression, the majority seeking refuge in 90 UNRWA schools that were opened as emergency shelters.
  • More than 100,000 people, comprising 17,670 families and including 54,000 children, are still displaced, their homes destroyed or severely damaged by the Israeli assaults and uninhabitable, their life’s possessions and family sanctuaries lost.

Compounding the widespread human insecurity and despair is the deprivation and destitution being endured by Palestinians due to the humanitarian disaster deliberately inflicted by Israel via this war and its illegal eight-year blockade of Gaza. This humanitarian crisis has impacted every single aspect of life, with vastly negative socio-economic implications, both short and long-term, that are depriving and disfiguring the Palestinian society. As recognized unanimously by the international community, this unjust situation and the consequent loss of hope is unsustainable and highly volatile, requiring urgent remedy to stem further deterioration and avert the explosion of another cycle of violence.

Here, we must recount the physical and economic toll of that war and blockade, recalling Your Excellency’s statement during your visit to Gaza in October 2014: “No amount of Security Council sessions, reports or briefings could have prepared me for what I witnessed today in Gaza”, where you saw “mile after mile of wholesale destruction”.

  • 12,620 homes were totally destroyed by the Israeli occupying forces and 6,455 were severely damaged beyond habitation. More than 80,000 homes were damaged.
  • One year later, not a single destroyed home has been rebuilt due to ongoing Israeli restrictions. Less than 1% of needed construction materials have entered Gaza. Donor funding for reconstruction also remains insufficient despite the generous pledges and commitments made at the Cairo Conference.
  • Over 100,000 people remain homeless, the majority Palestine refugees, who have been forced to shelter with host families, in temporary housing or in the ruins of their homes, for many after months in crowded UN schools inadequate for family life.
  • More than 100 UN facilities were damaged, including UNRWA schools.
  • 75 hospitals and clinics were damaged, with one hospital entirely destroyed.
  • 543 schools were damaged or destroyed, the highest recorded number in the world in 2014.
  • Gaza’s sole power plant was directly hit several times by Israeli strikes in July, resulting in rolling blackouts of 12-16 hours a day, which continue to this day.
  • 63 water facilities were damaged and 23 were destroyed, exacerbating the water crisis in an area where 90% of the water is unfit for human consumption.
  • More than 33,000 meters of water and waste networks and 27% of pumping stations were damaged.
  • At least 500 economic and industrial facilities, constituting 60% of Gaza’s production capacity, were destroyed, directly and indirectly impacting more than 35,000 jobs, further compounding poverty, in addition to the livelihoods destroyed by the blockade and the 2008-2009 Israeli aggression.
  • Unemployment in Gaza now stands at 43%, the highest in the world, with youth unemployment at a shocking 60%, deepening the despair of our young generation.
  • Food insecurity is rampant, with 80% of the population now aid dependent for survival.
  • The blockade has reduced Gaza’s GDP by 50%, with exports and normal trade at a virtual standstill as Israel continues to obstruct the normal movement of persons and goods and continues to isolate Gaza from the West Bank and from the rest of the world.

One year on, the vast human and physical wounds remain unhealed in Gaza and hopes are rapidly fading for any relief from this appalling injustice and for restoration of the rights and dignity of our people. The inhumane Israeli blockade continues in collective punishment of the Palestinian people, Israel continues to obstruct reconstruction and recovery, and not a single Israeli official or soldier has been held accountable for these crimes. Clearly, at the moment that Israel launched its war last summer in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, it intentionally undertook to destroy the prospects for peace, to further assert and entrench its control of the Palestinian people, and to strip them of any hope for an end to this cruel occupation and for the realization of their inalienable rights and national aspirations.

The deliberate, systematic nature of these Israeli crimes, constituting grave breaches of international law and all principles of decency and morality, is unquestionable and must be considered in any effort to attain accountability. The far-reaching impact of these crimes and multiple human rights being violated as a result must also be duly considered. The recent reports of the Human Rights Council’s Independent Commission of Inquiry and the Secretary-General’s Board of Inquiry provide ample and alarming evidence in this regard, as has the constant monitoring and documentation of this situation by UNRWA, OCHA, UNICEF, UNSCO and other UN agencies and international organizations on the ground.

We stress that the matter of accountability is as urgent as addressing the humanitarian crisis, for without it Israel’s impunity and depravity against the Palestinian people will surely be further emboldened with disastrous impact. We thus appeal for immediate measures to uphold international law and to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and, in this regard implore the ICC Prosecutor to continue the preliminary examination towards the opening of an official investigation into the crimes committed against the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying Power, as a matter of urgency for justice and peace.

Left without the protections of international law and international justice, the Palestinian people’s lives will remain endangered by this illegal Israeli occupation and their future ever more uncertain as the situation on the ground further declines and destabilizes. The international community cannot remain an onlooker as the inhumanity of the Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people continues, becoming more criminal, destructive and merciless with every passing year. Salvaging the prospects for peace and stability and, equally, salvaging the credibility of international law and the international system as a whole require urgent collective action to bring an end to this unjust, unlawful situation.

Upon passage of one year since this devastating war, we reiterate our calls upon the international community, including the Security Council, to shoulder their responsibilities to address this grave crisis and the underlying root causes of this continuing conflict, which remains a threat to international peace and security. We call again for the full lifting of the Israeli blockade and for the sustained, normal movement of persons and goods into and out of Gaza, in accordance with international humanitarian law, to enable desperately-needed human, physical and economic recovery of this long-suffering area of Occupied Palestine. Further, during this somber time of reflection, we remember the thousands of Palestinian victims of Israel’s wars and crimes over the decades and reaffirm that the sole way to halt the suffering of the Palestinian people is by ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and fulfilling the long-overdue inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination, freedom and independence.

This letter is in follow-up to our 546 letters regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which constitutes the State of Palestine. These letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432-S/2000/921) to 2 July 2015 (A/ES-10/682-S/2015/xxx) constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed against the Palestinian people, by Israel, the occupying Power, for which it must be held accountable and the perpetrators be brought to justice.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the text of the present letter and its annex distributed as a document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.

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

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Ambassador, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations