Civilians are not a legitimate target

June 17, 2014. Gisha strongly condemns any action which deliberately targets civilians, whether the firing of rockets towards civilian population centers or the kidnapping of civilians, particularly minors. Civilians are not a legitimate target and must be protected during hostilities. For this reason, harming civilians by restricting the movement of civilians and civilian goods is also prohibited.

Following the alleged kidnapping of three youths in the West Bank and rocket fire from Gaza, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued instructions to further restrict movement through Gaza’s crossings with Israel. As the crossings do not operate on Fridays and Saturdays, today, Tuesday, was the fifth day of a near total shutdown of the crossings.  Only critical medical patients and foreign citizens (including Gaza residents with Israeli citizenship) were permitted to exit Gaza via Erez Crossing. Kerem Shalom was closed, aside from transfers of fuel to the Strip. A shipment of herbs destined for the United States was blocked from export; a group of children scheduled to travel to a music summer camp in Ramallah could not exit; merchants and others who had met Israel’s already strict criteria for travel and had been granted permits were unable to travel; and essential goods Gaza residents can only import through Israel did not enter the Strip.

This is the ninth time since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 that Gaza’s crossings have been closed following on escalations in violence in the region, even when there is no apparent, or alleged, connection between the decision to close the crossings and a security threat to the crossings themselves. Any closure of the crossings that does not correspond to a concrete security need could be considered a targeting of civilians and a breach of international law. The 1.7 million residents of the Gaza Strip are not a legitimate target and should not pay the price for acts they did not commit and over which they have no control.