At the beginning of 2004, Israeli forces were making Palestinian refugees homeless in southern Gaza on the border with Egypt. Now they’re doing the same in Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government has a plan for “disengaging” from Gaza but has in fact brought additional troops and equipment into Gaza in the past week.
Some 60 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians including children, more than 200 have been injured, homes have been destroyed and businesses and farms have been damaged in the past week in and around Jabalia. Jabalia camp has a population of 106,000 registered Palestinian refugees, mainly descendents of refugees from the Majdal (Ashkelon) area of Israel who were driven away from their homes and lands in 1947-48 and have not been allowed to return and given compensation for their losses.
Called, Operation Days of Penitence after the period of time during the Jewish holidays that Jews are to ask forgiveness for past deeds, Israeli officials have said that the operation will continue and broaden. The IDF said that it plans to continue the operation “whether it be a matter of days of weeks”. The aim is to make a corridor of up to 8 km wide in the northern Gaza Strip to prevent Kassam rockets from reaching targets in Israel.
The operation is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The Convention prohibits collective punishment and the destruction or appropriation of property not justified by military necessity. The recent International Court of Justice ruling on Israel’s West Bank wall reiterated the applicability of the Geneva Conventions in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel’s incursion has been criticized by, among others, Amnesty International, the Arab League and Palestinian NGOs. The U.S. Government has warned of the lack of proportionality of the Jabalia attack.
In the Gaza Strip, more than 23,000 Palestinians have lost their homes in Israeli attacks, education and health care have been degraded, more than 50 per cent of the population is unemployed and the level of malnutrition has increased, especially among vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.