Palestinians Prepare for Peace While Israel Practices War

Youths carry a Palestinian man wounded by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the controversial separation wall in the West Bank village of Bilin west of Ramallah June 30, 2006. (MaanImages/Mushir Abdelrahman)

As the Palestinian factions prepare for peace, the Israeli military has continued to commit grave breaches of international law and inflict further suffering against the civilian population of the OPT.

For the past three and a half years Israel has worked to isolate the Palestinian people by refusing to recognise their legitimate representatives (the PLO) as partners for peace. This strategy of unilateralism has taken place while very positive developments have taken place on the Palestinian side. In the past week these developments have included:

  • Acceptance of the Prisoners’ Peace Plan by both HAMAS and Fatah;
  • The three conditions set by the EU/USA have been met and accepted;
  • An agreement, for the resolution of the internal disputes, has been reached;

    Accordingly the only remaining obstacle to full implementation of the internationally accepted desire to see a Palestinian state are the Israeli authorities, who have continued their attacks on the Gaza Strip since implementation of the unilateral Disengagement Plan in September 2005. One of the most notable of these attacks was the recent killing of seven member of the same family on a beach in the northern Gaza Strip. The constant Israeli assaults on civilians in the Gaza Strip, has provoked a response from the Palestinian resistance, such as the military operation at Kerem Shalom on the border between Gaza and Israel. During this operation one Israeli soldier was captured and taken prisoner

    Upon the capture of the Israeli soldier, Israel did not seek to engage with the Palestinians, preferring instead to unilaterally take military action to recover the captured soldier.

    When undertaking military action, Israel is obliged to act within the confines of the Fourth Geneva Convention and to apply the principles of proportionality and distinction. Instead the Israeli military has inflicted a policy of collective punishment against the impoverished[1] civilian population of the OPT:

  • Gaza has been completely sealed off from the outside world for people and goods, including basic humanitarian supplies such as food and medicine;
  • The main power station in Gaza, a private civilian facility, was destroyed by an Israeli missile attack – this has resulted in 80% of the population being denied electricity. Electricity is also essential for powering water pumps and sanitation facilities. The power station will take six months to repair;
  • The three main bridges in Gaza, connecting the north and the south of the Strip, were destroyed by further Israeli missile attacks. Consequently, the north and south of Gaza have been isolated from each other in a fashion reminiscent of Israel’s policy throughout the al Aqsa intifada;
  • Israeli warplanes (F16s) and Apache Helicopter gunships are constantly in the skies over Gaza and have been carrying out bombardment of the densely populated civilian areas, including using one tonne bombs;
  • F16s have been flying low and breaking the sound barrier over Gaza, causing “sonic booms” that are as loud as actual bombardments. These sonic booms have caused widespread terror among the population, particularly among children, the infirm and the elderly. The timing of the sonic booms has been designed to terrorise the general population;
  • 200 – 300 artillery shells per day are being pounded into the northern part of the Gaza Strip, many of them as little as 200 metres away from the homes of Palestinian civilian families;
  • Most of the HAMAS leadership in the West Bank has been detained, including eight government ministers and twenty-five members of the Palestinian Legislative Council;
  • Due to the siege imposed on Gaza it will run out of the depleted emergency supplies of fuel within days. This means that hospitals, water supplies, and sewage treatment will all be affected as emergency power generators grind to a halt. This will cause a further deepening of the already catastrophic humanitarian situation.

    The scale and type of the Israeli military operations indicate that this operation was premeditated, and must have been planned for some time. On a number of occasions, in the run-up and aftermath of the redeployment fromGaza, the Israeli military threatened to initiate a full-scale ground operation similar to Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002.

    In the past number of months Israel has employed a number of measures to bring down the HAMAS government: the economic blackmail and sanctions against the Palestinian Authority as punishment for the Palestinians’ exercise of their democratic rights; the ongoing isolation imposed on the Gaza Strip since the Israeli ‘disengagement’ in 2005; the withholding of Palestinian tax revenues by the Israeli authorities; the international political boycott of the legitimately elected HAMAS government. Fuelled by the failure of these measures to bring about the desired result,Israel chose a military option.

    The US has continued to offer protection to Israel for these ongoing activities while the EU has steadfastly maintained its conspiracy of silence against the Palestinian people – both continue to maintain economic blackmail and sanctions against the Palestinian people.

    Palestinians can not be expected to become “good victims” and to remain silent or inactive in the face of these provocations and the grave breaches of international law. Since 1967 Palestinians have called for an immediate end to this belligerent occupation and the comprehensive implementation of international humanitarian law.

    By continuing to support Israel the EU/USA are creating an environment conducive to the rule of jungle not the rule of law. They have brought the rules of Bin Laden – not the rules of international humanitarian law. Thus, anyone who qualifies as a protected person under international humanitarian law is at a serious risk in the current environment.

    Accordingly Israel’s so-called “Operation Summer Rain” won’t see clean water falling on the Gaza Strip but will swell the river of mud flowing through the area. Israel’s operation will therefore perpetuate the violence to produce a long, hot, filthy summer of human rights violations across the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

    Raji Sourani, is one of the Gaza Strip’s foremost human rights lawyers. He is the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, an organization that monitors the human rights practices of the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

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