Thursday, May 11, 2023. This is the third day of Israel’s offensive in Gaza. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as of 8:30 AM 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 were damaged, some so severely that they are no longer inhabitable, and there is concern that civilian infrastructure was damaged as well.

Since Tuesday, May 9, Israel has closed its crossings with Gaza, Erez and Kerem Shalom, hermetically. As a result, travel has been blocked entirely, even for urgent humanitarian needs: 292 patients and companions were prevented from accessing medical treatment that is unavailable in Gaza (May 9-10), many of them cancer patients and others in need of life-saving treatment provided by hospitals in the West Bank or Israel. The closing of Erez Crossing puts additional lives at risk by preventing urgent evacuations, which may be needed, of civilians injured during the assault.

The closing of Kerem Shalom Crossing blocks all passage of goods to and from the Strip, including entry of medical equipment and fuel for Gaza’s power plant. Blocking the entry of fuel jeopardizes the supply of electricity to residents, which is far from sufficient as is, and may harm the functioning of civilian infrastructure in Gaza.

Israel’s latest attack on Gaza comes against the backdrop of an ongoing economic crisis and the dire humanitarian situation, created in large part by Israel’s 16-year closure of Gaza and decades of movement restrictions preceding it, as well as its repeated attacks on the Strip. Israel’s policy regarding Gaza stands in direct contravention of its legal obligations, as occupying power, to protect human rights and enable normal life in the Strip; constituting prohibited collective punishment.

This morning, human rights organizations Gisha, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and Al Mezan sent an urgent letter to Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Galant, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Ghasan Alyan. In the letter, the organizations warn that under international 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 emphasize, 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.