Another Israeli military assault on Gaza and again, as if stuck on repeat, the killing of civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure in the Strip is presented by Israeli officials as unavoidable collateral damage.
On Thursday, May 11, before a ceasefire was reached, Gisha, together with partner human rights organizations Al Mezan, Adalah, and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, sent an urgent letter to Israel’s Minister of Defense, Attorney General, and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. We demanded that Israel stop the killing and targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure and enable humanitarian access, immediately. “Security challenges, including risks posed during active hostilities, do not exempt Israel from its humanitarian obligations to residents of Gaza,” we emphasized in the letter, concluding that “the violation of these principles raises serious concern of flagrant violations of the rules of war that may amount to war crimes.”
On top of the killing and immense harm to civilians in Gaza, Israel’s five-day closure of Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings had immediate impact on its 2.2 million residents: Dozens of patients missed appointments for medical treatment, aid was obstructed, a struggling economy was dealt yet more losses, and electricity supply was impacted for lack of fuel. Hundreds of rockets were also fired from Gaza towards Israel, taking the lives of two people and causing damage to property. According to various reports, some rockets landed inside the Strip.
After a ceasefire came into effect on Saturday night, life in Gaza returned to “normal,” or in other words, back to the routine of life under closure and occupation. Erez Crossing was reopened on Sunday, allowing the few Palestinians who meet Israel’s criteria for permits to exit and enter the Strip. Entry and exit of goods via Kerem Shalom has been restored, allowing in fuel, food and humanitarian supplies.
The full extent of the damage caused by Israel’s latest assault on Gaza is just beginning to surface, but we’ve seen this script before. Despite its far-reaching control over life in Gaza and repeated, deadly attacks on the Strip, Israel continues to evade all responsibility for Palestinians’ lives and human rights.
In between wars, when Gaza is no longer in the headlines, Israeli policies continuously harm Palestinians, who are left to pick up the pieces, cope with the horrors and the ongoing trauma, and mourn the lives lost. Only removing the closure, ending the occupation, and apartheid will get us off repeat.