Gisha calls on both sides of the conflict: Remove Civilians from the Cycle of Combat

In light of the severe escalation in military offensives in Gaza over the weekend, and reports of dozens of civilians killed and hundreds wounded, Gisha calls upon Israel and militants in Gaza to take the measures necessary to avoid harming innocent civilians, as required by international law.

Sun., March 2, 2008
– Gisha expresses deep concern over the rising number of dead and wounded as a result of Israeli military activities in Gaza and rocket fire on Israeli population centers by militants in Gaza. According to news reports and UNICEF, out of 100 Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded in Gaza since last Wednesday’s escalation, at least half are civilians, including 17 children killed and 200 children injured. Israeli casualties include the deaths of two soldiers and a civilian, and injuries to dozens of civilians, including children.

Gisha condemns the violations by both sides of international law, which forbids deliberately harming civilians and forbids disproportionately harming civilians during combat operations – harm which is an expected result of Israel’s undifferentiated firing into crowded population centers. Gisha notes that Israel, as the occupying power in Gaza according to the definition provided by international law, owes an enhanced duty to protect the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza. On the other hand, the Hamas organization and militants in Gaza must immediately stop the firing of rockets on towns in southern Israel –attacks which violate the international legal prohibition against deliberately targeting civilians.

Gisha calls upon the international community to intervene immediately, in order to prevent further civilian casualties.

According to Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha: "The killing and wounding of hundreds of Gaza residents comes on top of a series of punitive measures that Israel has taken against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including severe restrictions on freedom of movement and the passage of vital goods. The time has come for both sides to remove civilians from the cycle of combat."