Each day I have been in Gaza, Israel has shelled the place at least once, sometimes thee or four times, daily. This didn’t constitute a breach of the ceasefire, Hamas kept talking.
Yesterday afternoon, as I arrived back to my hotel from the shattered town of Shejaia, reports came in from IDF (Israeli military) sources that rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel. I was astounded and confused. Despite being out in the open air, on a clear day, we heard and saw nothing. This is additionally incredible given the levels of anxiety here, people are jumping when a door closes loudly. So, that none of us would see, or hear, rockets launching from right next to us leaves me wondering if they were indeed fired at all. Israel claims these rockets landed in fields, with no damage to people or property – the only evidence apparently the Israeli triggered sirens and Iron Dome missile response. I am dubious.
But actually, all that is irrelevant so far as international law is concerned. Israel, and those justifying this brutal assault are excusing war crimes. Collective Punishment, that is killing or injuring people in retaliation for the actions of others, is illegal under International Law. Article 33 of the Geneva Convention reads:
- No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.
- Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
- Pillage is prohibited.
- Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.
Last night, the IDF Spokesperson tweeted this as the F-16s, drones and warships began pounding the Gaza Strip, leaving no town untouched.
I have reported already from Shejaia, Khuza’a, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia – these places have already been destroyed. The inhabitants lucky enough to survive being gassed, shelled and shot at through five weeks are now mostly homeless. The UN shelters are so full, unsanitary and diseased that these people are now living under sheets propped up on sticks, in the rubble of their homes.
And last night, all of these areas were hit repeatedly by Israeli forces.
So far, we know that at least 12 people have been killed, including five children, three women (one of them 32 weeks pregnant). The hospitals are completely overloaded, the courageous physicians utterly exhausted. This is not a war, this is a massacre.
What were the Palestinian demands at the ceasefire talks? Simple – only what is due to them under International Law. Control of their land, sea and airspace – and to live in peace and dignity. Israel refused to accede to these humble demands, choosing instead to make every effort to crush the resistance of the Gaza Strip.
Last night as I broadcasted live to the world, the room was shaking as shells landed nearby. I had to pause for a moment because I could hear children screaming from a nearby building which had been hit.
This is a battered and beleaguered people, living minute-by-minute as bombs continue to fall. You cannot imagine the terror being unleashed here right now. As I write this, the sky is roaring with F-16s, the thud and boom of shells rolls across the strip like thunder, the constant buzzing of drones picking the next target fills our ears.
None of this is diminishing resistance here one iota. Instead it has removed all hope, all willingness to compromise. Time and again I am told “Israel must kill us now, or let us free”, “Israel give us a slow death or a quick death, we will at least die in dignity”.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cohort have given the people of Gaza so little to lose. Their choice is to die, slowly and forgotten inside the world’s largest open prison – or push for freedom. So they push.
Below is last night’s broadcast live from Gaza as the shells fell. I will be broadcasting tonight at 8pm BST, and taking your questions.