The legal definition of the term genocide involves intending to destroy a nation, ethnic or religious group. Although complexities reach further, Israel does appear to be attempting to reduce the amount of territory that is safe for Palestinians.
Instability in Israel and (what little is left of) Palestine is not new. The recent increase in missile activity has come as a response to Israeli forces evicting Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. This area is occupied by Israel – the city is highly disputed as a result of its religious significance, but Palestinians have lived there for multiple generations.
Families were ordered to leave their homes to accommodate Jewish settlers. The Jerusalem District Court ruled that they must vacate by the 1st August 2021, lest they be violently relocated.
Sheikh Jarrah, the area from which the families have been ordered to leave, is said by Israel to belong to the Jewish faith. This month’s court rulings are the climax of decades of arguing by US-funded Jewish settler groups.
Israeli forces also targeted those at the al-Aqsa mosque. This mosque is of massive cultural and religious significance for Palestinian Muslims but rests on what is claimed by Israel to be sacred land that belongs to Judaism. Israel fired rubber-coated metal bullets and used stun grenades while Muslims went to pray during Ramadan – hundreds were injured.
Hamas, the organisation which aims to liberate Palestine and mould it into an Islamic state, issued an ultimatum after the evacuations were ordered and the attacks at al-Aqsa. They stated that Israel should remove its forces from Sheikh Jarrah and the area surrounding the mosque.
Israel did not abide – Hamas fired a series of rockets from Gaza towards Israeli territory. This was closely followed by strikes from Israel to Gaza. These were so-called ‘military’ targets, but reports say over 60 Palestinian children have been killed in the last week or so by Israeli firing.
Pre-sunrise attacks on the centre of Gaza City killed many more Palestinians in their homes. The death toll is now almost 200.
Families report going to bed in the same room so that no one is left alone to grieve their parents or siblings. It’s hard to imagine the fear and hopelessness that leads to making that decision.
On the 17th more Israeli strikes killed around 42 Palestinians. Several homes were left in ruins and 10 children had their lives cut short. The Israeli military claim the many civilian killings of the past 10 days or so have been unintended, while Hamas have called the deaths ‘premeditated’.
Whether intentional or not, Palestinian people are living in excruciating terror as they see their neighbours’ die at the hands of Israeli fighter jets.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says their military campaign will continue until the security of Israelis can be guaranteed. Joe Biden has expressed support for a ceasefire but reiterates Israel’s right to defend itself.
The US has subsequently blocked a draft resolution from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that calls for an immediate ceasefire on both sides. This is the third time Biden has rejected the draft which expresses concerns about civilian lives.
The Turkish envoy to the UN says the UNSC’s failure to pass a resolution is impermissible. Mr Sinirlioglu condemned Israel’s actions and showed sympathy for the Palestinian lives lost.
The Israel/Palestine insecurity has been on the UNSC’s agenda near enough since its birth. The seemingly unbreakable diplomatic alliance between the US and Israel is allowing war crimes by Israel to go unpunished.
In the most recent example of illegal military activity by Israel, the Al Jazeera and Associated Press office building in Gaza City was struck. Journalists and other staff were given just 60 minutes notice to evacuate before the building, which also contained residential flats, was destroyed.
There was only one elevator. They scrambled to take as much camera equipment as they could and carried as many children to the exits as they could hold– an Associated Press journalist begged over the phone for “15 more minutes”.
The response from the Israeli officer was, “There will be no 15 minutes”.
The President and CEO of Associated Press told Al Jazeera that he had at no point in the last 15 years suspected any Hamas presence in the building, and thus questions why it was targeted.
Israel ordering the evacuations of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah is in breach of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, and the attacks on the press building arguably amounts to war crimes as described by Article 8 of the International Criminal Court Statute.
The UK Prime Minister has been quiet on the matter despite mass protests across the UK in solidarity with Palestine.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has voiced support for Israel’s right to self-defence while condemning the Israeli settlements in occupied areas and the evictions in East Jerusalem.
The international community needs to unite to condemn Israel’s overbearing presence. As Netanyahu continues to attempt to expand Israeli settlements and push Palestinians off their homelands, civilians are dying, and independent press organisations and NGOs have been targeted.
This is not a conflict. Hamas attacks followed illegal demands by Israel for the evacuations of Palestinian homes. There is talk of Israel’s right to self- defence, but what about Palestine’s?
Oxfam Gaza Crisis Appeal:
Save The Children Gaza Crisis Appeal: