Five Israeli human rights organizations demanded today in an urgent appeal to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense that they take immediate action to end the killing of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories, and to eradicate the factors contributing to these killings.
The organizations (B’Tselem, ACRI, PCATI, HaMoked and PHR-Israel) state that the killing of a family at the Gaza seashore on Friday (a father, mother and five children), apparently by a shell fired by Israeli soldiers, is a terrible addition to an already horrifying statistic: according to B’Tselem data, since the onset of the second Intifada, 3,431 Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been killed by Israeli security forces. Of those, 698 were minors under the age of 18 years.
At lease 1,645 of those killed were in no way taking part in the fighting at the time they were killed (and an additional 244 people were the targets of targeted killings). These dismal figures result directly from a series of Israeli policies, including illegal expansion of Israel’s open-fire regulations, deliberate vagueness and double messages regarding the use of force, violation of the principle of proportionality and the failure to conduct independent investigations into civilian deaths.
The organizations add that it is indeed Israel’s obligation to take all legitimate steps at its disposal to defend the lives and security of its citizens from attacks by Palestinian organizations. These attacks by Palestinian groups, which deliberately target civilians, constitute a war crime for which there can be no justification.
However, it is unconscionable that a sovereign state should use illegal means, some of which reach the level of war crimes. The organizations reiterate that one of Israel’s central obligations under international humanitarian law is to minimize the impact of military action on the civilian population, and to ensure the life and security of Palestinian civilians, also during armed conflict.