|Israeli Military Raids on Gaza Civilian Population Continues, and Humanitarian Crisis Exacerbates in the Midst of Shameful Silence of the International Community|
|Wednesday, 31 December 2008 00:00|
Date: 31 December 2008
Time: 14:30 GMT
Israeli Military Raids on Gaza Civilian Population Continues, and Humanitarian Crisis Exacerbates in the Midst of Shameful Silence of the International Community
Air and sea raids that have been launched by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against the Gaza Strip since Saturday morning, 27 December 2008 have so far killed 310 civilians, including 37 children and 9 women, and wound at least 1,000 Palestinians, including 300 ones whose wounds are described as very serious.
Up to the moment, IOF have used fighter jets, helicopter gunships, drones and gunboats to launch hundreds of barbarian indiscriminate raids. These raids have targeted Palestinian institutions, including security and civilian facilities. They have targeted houses; schools; mosques; hospitals; medical institutions; charities; and municipalities with disregard to the possibility of endangering the lives, security and safety of the civilian population, and compromising the capacity of the targeted institutions to provide vital services to the civilian population.
Under such grave developments, the Gaza civilian population are suffering serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation. The resulting acute humanitarian crisis is increasingly and seriously impacting living conditions of Palestinian civilians, which have been already deteriorating due to the tightened siege imposed by IOF on the Gaza Strip from the land, air and sea for more than 18 months. Due to this siege, Palestinian civilians have been denied their economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.
Through its operating staff, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is following up the developments and outcome of the IOF military operation, codenamed Operation Cast Lead. PCHR follow-up covers war crimes and crimes against humanity that IOF are still committing against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip, that have resulted in hundreds of deaths and casualties among Palestinian civilians, in addition to the destruction of civilian facilities. Besides, PCHR is observing the deterioration humanitarian conditions, and impacts on economic and social rights as a result of the systematic destruction of the entire components of the human life, including the ability to enjoy adequate standard of living, access to food,
medicine and drinking water, access to healthcare, adequate and safe shelter, and to the rights to education and work.
Health Catastrophe Impacting Gaza Civilian Population
In a grave violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law, IOF military operations caused further catastrophic deterioration in health conditions of the Palestinian civilian population. Due to the ongoing air strikes, medical crews working in the field, including ambulances crews, members of medical missions and crews at hospitals and medical institutions, are facing extreme dangers because medical facilities are being direct targets of IOF air raids, or due to intensive raids that prevented mobile medical crews from accessing and evacuating the dead and the wounded. In a serious development, many medical establishments in the Gaza Strip have sustained heavy damages as a result of IOF indiscriminate bombardment. Moreover, medical crews have been subjected to many threats. Three members of the medical crews have been killed and a number of others have been wounded. The most significant incidents that took place during the period covered by this report and that formed a serious violation of the freedom of movement and work of medical crews are:
· At approximately 10:30 on Saturday, 27 December 2008, IOF warplanes bombarded with several bombs the former main headquarters of the Preventive Security Service (PSS) in Tal al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City. The bombardment resulted in the destruction of several buildings in the PSS headquarters. In addition, the headquarters of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the Directorate General of Ambulance and Emergency that are adjacent to the PSS headquarters were heavily damaged; the majority of windows and doors in these buildings were destroyed. PRCS buildings, including al-Quds Hospital, were rifted due to repeated targeting of the PSS headquarters that has been bombarded 4 times in the past four days.
· At approximately 11:30 on Saturday, 27 December 2008, IOF warplanes bombarded a site of the Civil Defense in al-Zahra'a City, south of Gaza City. The site was destroyed.
· At approximately 03:00 on Tuesday, 30 December 2008, IOF warplanes bombarded al-Farouq Mosque in al-Boreij refugee camp. The mosque was destroyed. The bombardment also resulted in the destruction of all the contents of al-Boreij public clinic, which is adjacent to the Mosque. It provides medical services to approximately 35,000 civilians in the area.
· In a serious development, IOF warplanes targeted an ambulance of the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH) while trying to evacuate the dead and the wounded in a night raid. At approximately 02:00 on Wednesday, 31 December 2008, an IOF drone launched a missile at an MOH ambulance in Jabal al-Rayes area, east of Gaza City. The ambulance crew was evacuating a number of victims who were killed or wounded due to bombardment of the area. Mohammed Said Abu Hasira, 21, a paramedic, was instantly killed and Ihab Omar al-Madhoun, 35, a physician, Heshmat Ajjour, 30, the ambulance driver, were seriously wounded. Al-Madhoun and Ajjour were taken to Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahia town for treatment. Later, physician Ihab al-Madhoon was pronounced dead.
Deterioration of Health Conditions at Gaza Hospitals
The victims who were wounded due to the Israeli operation receive poor medical services provided by Palestinian health facilities, which suffer an almost complete collapse of the medical system in the Gaza Strip, poor material capacities and continued electric cutoffs. Due to these impairments, the work of operations rooms and the hospitalization of the wounded and patients have been impacted. Due to the very high number of the dead and wounded, and in view of severe shortage of medicines and medical supplies and poor material capacity, Palestinian medical crews have not been able to provide medical aid to many persons who were wounded in IOF raids. Dozens of those wounded persons were in serious conditions that threatened their lives. The suffering of thousands of patients have continued due to the deterioration of the security conditions and due targeting many medical institutions by IOF throughout the Gaza Strip, and due to the continued IOF air strikes in the vicinity of medical institutions.
Palestinian medical crews are facing extreme difficulties in evacuating the dead and the wounded to hospitals and medical centers due to the continued air striking. Furthermore, Palestinian medical crews are unable to evacuate many dead and wounded persons under the ruins of houses and institutions that have been targeted by IOF raids.
The deterioration taking place in health conditions in the Gaza Strip exacerbated due to the high number of the dead and the wounded who fell due to IOF raids. This exacerbating deterioration comes along with the tightened total siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip, including the closure of Gaza border crossings for more than 18 months. The siege has impacted all medical institutions in the Gaza Strip, including hospitals and primary healthcare centers that have become unable to meet the needs of the civilian population and, as a result, have been unable to ensure physical and mental healthcare. This situation has impacted the capacity of Gaza medical institutions to provide medical services to the Gaza civilian population. The state of fear and horror caused by IOF barbarian raids affected the standard of civilians' enjoyment of their right to health, including inability to access medical institutions due the gravity of the security conditions, or due to medical institutions' incapacity to respond to the needs of hundreds of wounded persons and thousands of patients. Medical sources in the MOH in Gaza and at Shifa Hospital, the main treatment provider in the Gaza strip, stated the following:
· Gaza hospitals suffer severe shortage in beds that are required to receive hundreds of victims of IOF raids. There are approximately 1,200 beds in all Gaza hospitals. At Shifa Hospital, there are 530 beds, including 135 beds used for primary healthcare provision. Medical crews at Gaza hospitals and clinics have been unable to provide beds to treat and hospitalize the wounded persons, due to the high numbers of the wounded who arrived at hospitals and clinics in the wake of IOF air raids. Approximately 319 dead persons and more than 1,000 wounded persons have been admitted into Gaza hospitals within the past four days. The wounded who have been admitted into hospitals are being treated and hospitalized under severe shortages in medicines and medical supplies. Medical crews are also bearing utmost suffering due to continued electricity cutoffs.
· The different units at Shifa Hospital and other hospitals in the Gaza Strip are still suffering incapacity to provide treatment and medical services to approximately 390 persons who have been wounded in IOF ongoing military operation, due to unavailability of material capacities and medical apparatuses that are required for their treatment. These 390 wounded persons need to be urgently and promptly referred to treatment abroad for their serious injuries. The MOH has managed to refer approximately 60 of them to Egyptian hospitals during the past two days.
· The continued air striking has created a state of confusion, fear and horror amongst medical crews at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The gravity of the security conditions at the Hospital exacerbated following the heavy damages that had been caused to the Hospital when IOF warplanes bombarded al-Burno Mosque that is adjacent to the Hospital. Due to bombardment of the mosque, the windows and doors of the burns and surgery unit and the administration offices were crashed. Also the water network at the surgery unit in building no. 8 was destroyed. This created extreme difficulty that impeded the work of the medical crews at the Hospital.
· Eng. Bassam al-Hamarin, director of Engineering and Maintenance Department in the MOH, stated that the continued electric cutoffs and the shortage of spare parts required for the maintenance of many medical apparatuses and tools have impacted the efficiency and work of these apparatuses and tools. He added that this resulted in:
- Disruption and poor efficiency of 17 central oxygen stations in Gaza hospitals, including 3 stations at Shifa Hospital that provide oxygen to internal diseases unit, chest diseases unit and the artificial kidney unit.
- The pumps of water wells at Shifa Hospital were disrupted after sustaining heavy damages.
- The members of the medical crews at Gaza hospitals are suffering shortages in wireless communication devices. This coincides with defectiveness in the Palestinian mobile communication network (Jawwal), increasing the gravity that faced the work of the Palestinian ambulances crews.
- Many medicines, vaccinations and foods at Gaza hospitals are subject to decay due to continued electric cutoffs while the power generated by power generators is not sufficient to face the power shortage.
- Shifa Hospital is suffering the continued disruption of its only cardiac catheterization apparatus. The Hospital is also suffering the disruption of the sterilization apparatuses and milk pasteurization and decontamination apparatuses that are necessary for immature neonates.
- All hospitals in the Gaza strip are suffering shortages in spare parts required for power generators, on which Gaza hospitals mainly depend in view of continued electric cutoffs. The MOH Engineering and Maintenance Department lacks many spare parts required for the maintenance of power generators, including air filters, oil filter and filters required to separate kerosene and oil.
- The MOH is suffering a shortage of spare parts required for its vehicles and ambulances. Due to the emergency situation in the Gaza Strip, 50% of the MOH ambulances are exceptionally operating although they lack maintenance.
· Central medical laboratories at Shifa Hospital are suffering a severe shortage in medical apparatuses, including 30 apparatuses used in blood analysis. This shortage of blood analysis apparatuses has impeded the blood transformation for the wounded. The lives of the wounded persons would be threatened in case of blood transformation without making the necessary tests.
· Gaza hospitals are suffering a shortage in medical disposables in surgery rooms, including surgical operation torches, surgical operations tables, laboratorial apparatuses, ray apparatuses and extensive care apparatuses.
· Gaza hospitals and healthcare centers are still suffering a shortage in medicines. 105 items of main medical tools and 255 of medical disposables have run out or are in short quantities. These medical supplies include the majority of medicines required for cancer patients and medicines required for sick children who are suffering from cystic fibrosis, and the health conditions of these children are seriously threatened .
· More than half a million of Palestinian students at primary, preparatory and secondary schools have been denied access to their schools. On the first day of IOF indiscriminate air raids, more than 5,000 students were subject to trauma or were injured, while attending their classes or while on their way to afternoon schools. These children are still denied access to necessary physical treatment services, due to the severe shortage in that service.
· Dr. Samir Qouta, a psychology professor at the Islamic University in Gaza City, says that there has been an increasing number of parents who visit mental health centers in the Gaza Strip to inquire how to treat the symptoms of the psychological deterioration in their children, that resulted from the terrible explosions that trembled the entire Gaza Strip. Dr. Qouta says that the symptoms of the psychological disorders caused by fear and horror of IOF incessant bombardments include bedwetting, nail-biting, fear of night, frightening nightmares, physical pains of unknown causes, crying and introversion. Dr. Qouta expects that the symptoms of the psychological deterioration in the Palestinian children would develop to include a form of violence in dealing with their peers, inability to concentrate and deterioration of educational levels. He also indicated that Palestinian children, who are subject to traumatic experience caused by IOF bombardments, become less obedient to their parents and lose the ability to deal openly with them. Dr. Qouta expects that the psychological deterioration in the Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip would aggravate due to IOF ongoing raids.
Prevailing State of Compulsory Mass Displacement of the Civilian Population in Gaza Refugees Camps and Towns
Thousands of civilians, mainly those who reside in areas close to the Palestinian- Egyptian border, fled from their houses in the wake of several raids launched by IOF on the southern Gaza Strip. A state of compulsory mass displacement of civilians has prevailed in the area. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was forced to open its schools to shelter the civilians and provide their basic needs, amidst a climate of fear and bitter cold. In addition, thousands of Gaza civilians have been forced to flee of their homes and look for safe shelters because their homes were completely or partially destroyed by IOF air raids, amidst the lack of minimum components of human life. According to PCHR's sources, thousands of populated houses throughout the Gaza Strip have been subject to partial or complete destruction, and for several times in some cases, due to IOF repeated air raids on many Palestinian institutions and establishments. The conditions are getting worse because IOF continuingly wage a psychological war against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, aiming at terrifying them. IOF have publicized messages via phones and other methods, indicating their intent to bombard populated houses and areas under different pretexts, including existence of weapons or to destroy tunnels along the border with Egypt.
At the humanitarian level, the civilian population in the Gaza Strip have continued to endure repeated long cutoffs of the electrical current. As a result, water for domestic and drinking purposes was not supplied to Gaza civilians. Beside the fear and horror that have spread amongst the civilian population of the Gaza Strip due to the continued IOF air raids that cause heavy explosions, Gaza civilians sustain utmost suffering to ensure their needs of flour and bread. The chronic crisis of cooking gas is still forming the heaviest burden on Gaza civilians, and civilians continue to look for primitive alternatives such as wood and kerosene stoves. Meanwhile, there are no means of warming against the bitter cold of winter.
The entire military actions that IOF are executing in the Gaza Strip represent a form of genocide of the Gaza Strip population. In addition, the serious violations committed by IOF lead to unprecedented compulsory mass displacement of thousands of civilians who started to look for safe areas to protect themselves and their families. IOF military operation started while Gaza civilians were suffering poverty, employment and deprival, which are the result of a unique form of collective punishment that has been imposed on Gaza for more than 18 months, denying civilians access to food, medicines and all other needs necessary for their survival.
PCHR has repeatedly called upon the international community and all the international and regional organizations, including the Secretary General of the United Nations and various UN BODIES, to urgently and promptly intervene to ensure protection for the civilian population and their property. PCHR has also called upon the different parties to bring justice to the victims of war crimes that have been committed by IOF and to prevent the reoccurrence of such crimes against civilians. However, a state of suspicious silence is still prevailing among the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Under this state, the genocide committed against Palestinian civilians continues and IOF continue to destroy the remaining human life components, while they destroyed the majority of these components in previous periods. The High Contracting Parties have breached all their legal, moral and ethical obligations that compel these Parties to respect the provisions of the international humanitarian law and human rights law and to ensure respect for these provisions.
Today, in light of the continued humanitarian crisis, indiscriminate killing and continued systematic destruction of all the Palestinian institutions and civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip, PCHR calls upon all the parties that were involved in ensuring respect for human rights in many countries to stop dealing in double-standards with IOF serious violations of human rights that amount to genocides committed against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. PCHR calls also upon the parties to take all necessary and urgent actions in order to stop these violations and to ensure IOF's compliance with and respect for the rights of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. PCHR reminds the parties to work on bringing justice to victims of those flagrant crimes. This will be fulfilled by immediate and urgent action through taking all measures that would compel IOF to cease the multiple forms of attacks against the Occupied Palestinian Territories, following bitter years of mass displacement and following the establishment of the occupying State on the ruins of the properties of the Palestinian civilians. This also requires an initiative to giving priority to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State on all the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including Jerusalem.
In the eve of the new year, the international community is required, today more than ever before, to put an end to the tragedy of the Palestinian civilian population that has continued over long decades. The international community is also demanded, today more than ever before, to stop the new catastrophe that is mainly affecting the civilian population and vulnerable groups, including women, children, the elderly, persons with special needs, the poor and those who are denied their right to a decent life.
The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention are required to take immediate and rapid action to stop the genocide practiced against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, to stop all forms of motionlessness and acting from the respective of politicizing the rules of the international humanitarian law and human rights law. Measures should be taken to activate the mechanisms of the United Nations, including the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council, in order to deter the perpetrators of such crimes, and prosecute them via activating the principle of universal jurisdiction. The prosecution should include perpetrators of such crimes, those who give orders to perpetrate them or those who keep silence towards their perpetration; otherwise, history will not have mercy for those who were motionless towards their legal, moral and ethical obligations.