A European inter-governmental group accused Israel of engaging in “apparently systematic unlawful killings” of Palestinian civilians in the buffer zone areas between the Gaza Strip and Israel over the past several years, and of exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.
The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, also known as PACE, voted on Tuesday in favor of a resolution, based on an internal report on the humanitarian situation in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave, which charges Israel with “excessive and intentional force without justification against Palestinian civilians in the buffer zone, including against farmers, journalists, medical crews and peaceful protesters, [which] runs blatantly counter to human rights principles and the international law-enforcement standards.”
“Cases of the deliberate fatal shooting of individuals who posed no imminent danger to life amounts to an appalling pattern of apparently systematic unlawful killings,” read the report, which was composed by Eva-Lena Jansson, a Swedish politician from the Swedish Social Democratic Party, and presented on January 4 to the assembly, made up of 324 parliamentarians from 47 countries.
The report cites a Palestinian NGO which is said to have “documented the killing of 136 Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli live fire in the buffer zone, including 20 children,” since 2010.
Israeli troops often clash with Palestinian protesters and rioters who hurl rocks at soldiers or cross into the buffer zone and try to cut or otherwise inflict damage on the security fence. Soldiers stationed across the fence also sometimes come under fire from inside Gazan territory.
While troops have used live fire under certain circumstances, there has never been any documentation of “systematic killings” of Gazans in the buffer zone.
The non-binding and non-enforceable resolution, based on the report, was passed Tuesday with a vote of 46 in favor, 12 against and two abstentions in the assembly during a session in Strasbourg, France.
Representatives from Israel, Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie and Kulanu MK Eli Alalouf, tried to delay the vote in the assembly, according to a report in Ynet, but to no avail.
The PACE report also accuses Israel of “a massive and exceptional escalation in…attacks and harassment of Palestinian fishermen, including use of live fire,” and charges that Gazan fishermen “are now reduced to severe poverty and unemployment as a direct result of Israel’s policies and practices against them.”
The report also alleges that since the summer war of 2014, fought between Israel, Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups in and around the Gaza Strip, in which a “huge number of people [were] killed” and in which “the destruction of civil infrastructure…was enormous,” the situation in Gaza became so dire that “many people preferred to flee Gaza and join the masses of refugees going to Europe.”
“It is estimated that over 12,620 houses were totally destroyed [in Gaza] and 6,455 severely damaged. 17,650 families or about 100,000 persons were displaced,” the report said.
The resolution calls for an end to the blockade imposed by Israel and by Egypt on the Gaza Strip, warns of a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave if regular access to humanitarian goods, water and electricity is not granted, and urges Israel and the Palestinian Authority to support any official investigation by the International Criminal Court into the 2014 Gaza war and its aftermath.
The resolution also called on Israel to “refrain from the use of force without justification against Palestinian civilians in the buffer and fishing zones” and on Palestinians to “reject and condemn acts of terrorism against Israel” and “form an effective and cohesive government, bridging the two territories.”
Lavie spoke before the assembly, calling the resolution a “distorted and a selective representation of reality,” and criticized the report for bring “based on rumors and not on facts.”
“We withdrew our citizens and even our dead from Gaza in 2005, in exchange we got rocket attacks. Israel supplies a third of Gaza’s electricity needs at a cost of a billion dollars, over 130,000 Palestinians received free medical care in Israel last year, including relatives of [former Hamas prime minister] Ismail Haniyeh, and we are accused of [contributing to a] humanitarian crisis?” railed Lavie, who also confronted Jansson, according to Ynet.
Israel withdrew its civilians and military personnel from the Gaza Strip in 2005 in a unilateral move. Two years later, Hamas overthrew Fatah in a violent coup in the Strip, resulting in an Israeli and Egyptian blockade designed to prevent Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction, from smuggling in weapons and materiel. Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought three wars which have severely harmed Gaza’s infrastructure and reconstruction efforts have been slow.
The last round of violence, in 2014, claimed more than 2,000 Palestinian lives, according to UN figures, and 73 Israeli lives including 66 soldiers. Israel has said that up to half of those killed on the Palestinian side were combatants, and has blamed the civilian death toll on Hamas for deliberating placing rocket launchers, tunnels and other military installations among civilians. The war, also known as Operation Protective Edge, erupted in July that year, after a month of escalating tensions triggered by the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens by Hamas in the West Bank, and an Israeli arrest sweep of Hamas supporters that led to renewed Gaza rocket fire on Israel.
In the wake of the war, the ICC launched a preliminary probe, at the request of the Palestinians, into war crime allegations on both sides. Israel is alleged to have used disproportionate force against the blockaded territory, while Hamas is accused of firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilian population centers and using Palestinians as human shields.
Israel, which is not a party to the treaty that governs the court, vehemently opposes any ICC investigation but has cooperated with the body.
Agencies contributed to this report.