For decades, our organizations have warned against the status quo and the deliberate failure and unwillingness of the international community to address the root causes of the current situation in Palestine—namely, Israel’s settler-colonialism, apartheid, and illegal occupation, as well as the continuous denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination—and to take effective and meaningful measures to address them.
According to our preliminary field information, overnight, the Israeli military carried out several attacks against the civilian population in Gaza; destroying dozens of family homes, residential and commercial buildings, and wiping out entire Palestinian families often without issuing warnings. The situation on the ground is of such gravity that requires immediate and urgent intervention by the international community.
On Saturday, 7 October 2023, Palestinian armed groups engaged in an operation in response to escalating Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, including; the ongoing closure of the Gaza Strip, daily military raids in the West Bank, attacks against Palestinian communities in the West Bank, killings*, mass arbitrary arrests, inhumane treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention, appropriation of natural resources, home demolitions, and the settlers storming of Al-Aqsa compound.
In the early hours of Saturday afternoon, Israel began bombing the Gaza Strip from the air, land and sea in what appears to be a retaliatory attack against the civilian population—a practice routinely employed by the Israeli military in Gaza, Jenin, and throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, since Saturday afternoon, 313 Palestinians were killed, including at least 20 children, and another 1,990 were wounded, including at least 121 children*.
Israeli attacks targeted Palestinian civilians and civilian infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip. In Gaza City, they targeted and destroyed several high-rise buildings, including the Falasteen Tower, Watan Tower and Al-Aklouk Tower. In Gaza City, another Israeli attack hit the Shaban family home, killing all six members, two parents and their children. In Beit Hanoun, North Gaza District, an Israeli attack targeted the Shabat family’s house, killing 12 Palestinians, including women and children. An ambulance was also hit in North Gaza, killing two paramedics. In Khan Younis, an Israeli attack targeted the Abu Daqqa family house, killing eighteen members, including women and children. Another Israeli attack targeted an ambulance in front of the Nasser Hospital. In the Middle Area District, the Israeli military carried out several attacks targeting family homes. The attack that struck Abu Rqab’s family house killed seven members, six of them children. In Rafah, an Israeli attack targeted the Abu Qouta family home, killing 17 Palestinians, 12 of them from the Abu Qouta family, among them children and women. The death toll will inevitably rise, as many people are still buried under the rubble.
Saturday evening, the Israeli Minister of Energy and Water announced that Israel will stop supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip in what is yet another act of collective punishment. The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company reported that, since Saturday morning, the lines from Israel have not been working. Currently, only about 60 megawatts of electricity produced by the local power plant (which depends on fuel that enters Gaza from Israel) is available in Gaza, where the protected civilian population can now only rely on four hours of electricity per day. This will inevitably lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, as many vital infrastructures, including hospitals, will not have sufficient electricity to function.
Over the past 15 years, Israel has carried out at least six large-scale military offensives against Gaza. In each of them, our organizations have been on the ground and collected compelling evidence that the Israeli authorities have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against Gaza’s civilian population, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, killing and injuring thousands of civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure. International humanitarian law dictates that, during hostilities, civilians and civilian objects must be protected against direct and indiscriminate attacks. Healthcare workers and health facilities must also be protected and may not be made the object of attack.
During a meeting of the Israeli government held on Saturday evening, May Golan, Israel’s Minister for the Advancement of the Status of Women, stated that: “All of Gaza’s infrastructures must be destroyed to its foundation and their electricity cut off immediately. The war is not against Hamas but against the state of Gaza”. Later in the evening, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared: “I say to the residents of Gaza: get out of there now, because we will act everywhere and with all the strength”. These statements suggest an intention to carpet bomb Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, in full disregard for civilians and civilian infrastructure. It should be also noted that there are no shelters in Gaza and people cannot leave the Strip because of Israel’s closure.
Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) urge the international community to take immediate and urgent action to stop Israel’s revenge and reprisal against Gaza’s civilian population and civilian objects. The latest statements by the Israeli establishment quoted above portend an unprecedented number of killings, with civilians bearing the brunt.
Accountability is the key to ending Israeli crimes, with Third States sharing responsibility for its consequences. We call on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to expedite the investigation into the Situation in Palestine with full resources and onsite visits as promised in December 2022. We stress that if no immediate action is taken by the international community to hold Israel accountable for the international crimes committed against the Palestinian people, more civilian casualties will follow, and destruction will continue to take place.
To this end, we call upon the UN Security Council, Third States, and UN Member States to immediately intervene with all necessary means to cease Israel’s attacks against the Palestinian people, and to impose sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel. In line with international obligations, the international community must cooperate to bring Israel’s illegal occupation as a continuing act of aggression since 1967 to an end; ensure the dismantling of the occupying administration and the full and unconditional withdrawal of all Israeli occupying forces from the territory, and the dismantling Israel’s apartheid regime.
* From January 1 to September 30, the Israeli army and settlers killed 234 Palestinians, including 45 children, from the occupied Palestinian territory.
**Data as of 12:00 pm on 8 October 2023.