At around 2:00 AM on Tuesday (May 9), Israel launched another offensive in the Gaza Strip, which is still ongoing. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of 8:30 this morning, Israel’s attack on the Strip killed 25 people in Gaza, many of them non-combatants, including at least six children and four women; 76 people were injured, including 24 children and 13 women. Hundreds of housing units have been damaged, some so severely that they are no longer inhabitable, and there is concern over damage to civilian infrastructure as well.

As it launched its assault, Israel announced that Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings, vital lifelines for Gaza’s 2.2 million Palestinian residents, will be closed ‘until further notice.’ Since yesterday afternoon (May 10), hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza towards Israel. According to various media outlets, many of the rockets landed in the Strip.

By closing Erez Crossing, Israel is preventing patients from exiting to receive medical treatment that is unavailable in Gaza in hospitals in the West Bank and Israel. According to the Ministry of Health, 292 patients and companions were blocked from accessing treatment on May 9-10, many of them cancer patients; 15 of the patients were prevented from receiving medical care defined as life-saving treatment. In closing Erez, Israel is also preventing travel by the few Gaza residents who meet its narrow criteria for travel in “humanitarian and exceptional” circumstances. Palestinians from Gaza working in Israel as laborers, and others who were outside the Strip when the crossing was shuttered, have not been allowed to return to their homes and families.

The closing of Kerem Shalom crossing brought the transit of goods into and out of the Strip to a complete halt, blocking entry of humanitarian supplies and fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant. On May 9, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company announced that it was implementing an emergency protocol, shutting down one of the three turbines that are usually operated at the plant.

Rafah Crossing and Salah a-Din Gate between Gaza and Egypt have been operating as usual during the Israeli offensive. However, only people who meet Egypt’s criteria can travel through Rafah. Since May 9, local authorities in Gaza have blocked fishermen’s access to sea due to the ongoing hostilities.

Photo by Majdi Fathi, May 11, 2023.
Photo by Majdi Fathi, May 11, 2023.

This morning, together with our colleagues at Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and Al Mezan in Gaza, Gisha sent an urgent letter to Israel’s Minister of Defense, Attorney General, and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). In the letter, we warned Israeli authorities that under international and humanitarian law, deliberate, disproportionate fire towards civilians and civilian targets, as well as Israel’s prevention of regular access to crucial supplies, are unlawful and entirely unacceptable. The organizations demand that Israel stop all harm to civilians 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,” the organizations emphasized, concluding that “the violation of these principles raises serious concern of flagrant violations of the rules of war that may amount to war crimes.”

To read the full letter (Hebrew), see here. For the press release on the letter, see here.