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Smoke billows from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021.

Smoke billows from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza exchanged heavy fire, killing at least 26 Palestinians and two Israelis, in an escalation sparked by violent unrest at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. (Photo: Anas Baba/AFP via Getty Images)

Human Rights Experts Denounce Israeli Violence, Confiscation of Homes in East Jerusalem as Violation of International Law

The new statements of condemnation came as Israel launched another round of airstrikes into Gaza, bringing the death tolll toll at least 26 people.

Andrea Germanos

Israeli forces are facing fresh condemnation from international human rights experts for their "excessive force" against Palestinian protesters in occupied East Jerusalem that left hundreds injured, and airstrikes into Gaza that killed dozens of people including nine children.

Also under scrutiny are Israel's attempted evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, which would amount to "war crimes," Amnesty International said Monday.

In a statement Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reiterated its plea for an end to the violence, and also addressed the retaliatory rockets fired by Hamas into Israel that injured 17 Israeli civilians. The body appealed to Israel and Palestinian armed groups to respect international humanitarian law.

Referring to Israel's strikes into densely populated Gaza, an area deemed by occupation critics an open-air prison, spokesperson for the High Commissioner Rupert Colville said, "Any attack, including airstrikes, should be directed solely at military objectives and all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid civilian deaths and injury and damage to civilian objects."

"Israel must also refrain from punitive measures, such as additional closures and restrictions, that punish the entire civilian population of Gaza," he said.

Israel launched a new round of airstrikes into Gaza on Tuesday, bringing the death toll up to 26, according to the Associated Press. Retaliatory rockets fired from Gaza into Israel resulted in the first Israeli causalities from the latest spate of violence—two people in the southern city of Ashkelon—after which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said military forces would "increase both the strength and rate of the strikes."

Ahead of the latest round of airstrikes into Gaza, Israeli security forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque for a third consecutive night, "firing rubber-coated steel rounds, stun grenades, and tear gas at Palestinian worshipers inside the mosque in the final days of the holy month of Ramadan," as Al Jazeera reported. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which says it's been targeted as it attempted to provide aid to wounded worshipers and protesters, said that over 900 Palestinians were injured between May 7 and May 10 in East Jerusalem.

The repression drew condemnation from United Nations human rights experts Michael Lynk and Balakrishnan Rajagopal. 

"The recent scenes of Israeli police and security forces attacking large crowds of Palestinian residents and worshipers is only intensifying a deeply inflammatory atmosphere in the city. A militarized response to civilian protests against discriminatory practices only deepens social divisions. Respecting rights is the only path forward,"  Lynk, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, and Rajagopal, special rapporteur on adequate housing, said in a statement.

"It is not just an eviction, but a war crime. Remember that. I do not know why the entire world is watching what is happening and letting Israel get away with it."
—Nabil el-Kurd, resident of Sheikh Jarrah
Their statement also references the threatened evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, which have elicited ongoing protests.

"An occupying power is prohibited from confiscating private property belonging to the protected population, and it must respect the body of existing laws which had governed the territory, unless it is absolutely necessary to alter them," said Lynk and Rajagopal.

"The forced transfer of the population under occupation is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which contribute[s] to the coercive environment now prevailing in East Jerusalem. As well," they continued, "these evictions breach the right to adequate housing—a core human right in international law."

Saleh Higazi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, similarly condemned Israel's recent actions.

"The latest violence brings into sharp focus Israel's sustained campaign to expand illegal Israeli settlements and step up forced evictions of Palestinian residents—such as those in Sheikh Jarrah—to make way for Israeli settlers. These forced evictions are part of a continuing pattern in Sheikh Jarrah, they flagrantly violate international law, and would amount to war crimes," said Higazi.

Nabil el-Kurd, one of the residents of Sheikh Jarrah who's facing possible eviction, told Amnesty International that Israel's actions must prompt urgent action from the international community.

"Sheikh Jarrah is sending a message to the whole world, including the U.S. Congress, the U.K. Parliament, the French Parliament, the E.U. Parliament, the International Criminal Court, that what is happening to us is a war crime," said el-Kurd. "It is not just an eviction, but a war crime. Remember that."

"I do not know why the entire world is watching what is happening and letting Israel get away with it," said el-Kurd. "It is time they stopped spoiling Israel."

In the U.S. , some Democratic members of Congress are calling for a shift in ongoing policies and practices in which the U.S. continues to supply Israel unconditional miliaty aid and defends Israel's lethal military actions as "self-defense" while rejecting direct criticism of Israeli forces' deadly attacks on Palestinians and the ongoing illegal occupation.

Those voices include Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and André Carson (D-Ind.).

In a joint statement Monday condemning the Gaza strikes and attacks on worshipers at Al Aqsa, the lawmakers said the threatened evictions are a "direct violation of international law, the Geneva Convention, and basic human rights." 

"We condemn all violence in this conflict—these acts only serve to advance the political goals of the powerful at the expense of the suffering of the people," they said.

The lawmakers also denounced the lack of "accountability for Israel's wanton human rights abuses and continuing illegal seizures of Palestinian land" in the face of mere "lip service to a Palestinian state."

"It is long past time we finally take action to protect Palestinian human rights and save lives," the trio said.


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