Israel imposed a complete siege of the Gaza Strip two days after Palestinian militants launched deadly attacks within the country, resulting in the deaths of at least 1,000 individuals and the capture of dozens more.
“We are putting a complete siege on Gaza. … No electricity, no food, no water, no gas – it’s all closed,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a video statement on Monday, justifying the move by describing Palestinians as “beastly people”.
Nearly 3,500 Palestinians have been injured and over 800 killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes that targeted residential and commercial buildings n the enclave, which is home to 2.3 million people.
The United Nations has deemed the Israeli cutoff of fuel, electricity, and water to Gaza, which has been under siege by Israel for the past sixteen years, to be a collective punishment.
Concerns regarding a potential ground invasion of Gaza have escalated since Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, declared that his nation was “at war” following the deadliest assaults in decades.
Intense bombardments in Gaza
Thousands of Gaza’s over 170,000 displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in United Nations schools in response to the escalating Israeli assaults that have compelled them to abandon their homes.
Offices, mosques, and buildings have been specifically targeted, with Netanyahu pledging “mighty vengeance” for the devastating assaults that have reverberated throughout Israel.
Images from within Gaza depict the tragic demise of 19 family members who were slain when an airstrike struck their residential building on Sunday. Presently residing in Israel, over sixty percent of Gaza’s populace consists of refugees who were forcibly displaced from their places of origin.
Gaza is already under a blockade
Gaza has been subject to an Israeli land, sea, and aviation blockade since 2007, one year following the democratic election of Hamas to power in Gaza. The voting occurred in the enclave almost two years after the withdrawal of Israeli military and settlers.
Israel controls the borders of Gaza due to the blockade, and Egypt has intervened to enforce the western border.
Israel asserts that it has obstructed the borders in order to safeguard its citizens from Hamas. However, the implementation of collective punishment in this manner contravenes the Geneva Conventions and has been widely condemned as unlawful by organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.
International humanitarian law unequivocally proscribes collective punishment, as stipulated in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In his 2020 report, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, stated unequivocally that “no exceptions are permitted.”
In addition, the report states that “Israel’s collective punishment policy” in Gaza has resulted in “a social service system that functions barely” and an economy that has “completely collapsed.” Infrastructure has also been devastated.
“Although Israel justified the closure on Gaza as a security measure to contain Hamas and safeguard its own interests, in practice it has resulted in the closure’s consequences being the economic devastation of the region and incalculable suffering for its two million inhabitants.”
Is this the first time Israel has used collective punishment against Gaza?
Israel has previously faced allegations of employing collective punishment and instigating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel frequently employs this tactic when interacting with Palestinians; it amounts to penalizing the entire population for the transgressions of a minority.
“Only the guilty can be punished for their actions, and only after a fair process,” Lynk has stated. It is impossible to punish the blameless for the actions of others.
In the past, what types of collective punishment has Israel implemented?
Israel has devastated homes, implemented curfews, erected roadblocks, seized private property, agricultural land, and water systems in addition to conducting border checks.
As a consequence of its sixteen-year blockade, the country has experienced one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, exceeding 45 percent. The United Nations reports that as of 2023, Gaza residents have had access to a mere 13 hours of electricity daily. In Gaza, the Palestinian population faces challenges such as inadequate access to pure water and non-operational airports.
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