11 Israeli HR Organizations urgent call: Open a safe route for civilians to escape the battle zone and declare a safe shelter zone in the Gaza Strip

The damage caused yesterday to UNWRA school in Beit Hanoun, that according to reports led to 15 deaths and dozens of casualties, demonstrates that there is no safe place for the civilian population the Gaza Strip. Even the school where they hoped to find refuge became a bombarded area.

During the operation, the army demanded evacuation of certain areas in the Gaza Strip. This demand is almost impossible to implement, due to, among other reasons, the density of the population in the Gaza Strip as well as the understanding that there is no area that can be defined as safe from shelling. An effective warning from the army to civilians should clearly indicate not only which area they should evacuate, but also where they will be safe and how they can move there freely and with no harm.

In an urgent letter sent yesterday (25.07.14) to the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff, the 11 Israeli Human Rights organizations called: “Without minimizing Israel’s duty to avoid harm to civilians and ensure safe evacuation of the wounded, we call for an immediate opening of a channel for civilians and the wounded to escape the battle zone and declaring a safe shelter zone, while ensuring their ability to return at the end of the fighting. Additionally it is incumbent on Israel to ensure that effective humanitarian aid given to people staying in any secure area meets the civilians’ needs and allows medical treatment to the wounded.”

The offensive in the Gaza Strip has resulted in widespread injury to the civilian population. At the time of writing, and since the fighting began, at least 718 people have been killed, with most sources and estimates indicating that at least 70% of those killed were civilians who were not involved in the hostilities. Over 140,000 people have abandoned their homes and taken shelter in UNWRA buildings. In addition to serious damage to the water and electricity infrastructure, there has been serious damage to hospitals and medical institutions and destruction of residential buildings.
This appeal is concerned with the absence of any secure area in the Gaza Strip to which civilians can escape to protect their lives and ensure their safety and that of their families. We demand the immediate opening of an escape route for civilians to escape the battle zone.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, HaMoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual, Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights.

To read the full letter click here.