May 17, 2021
For the past eight days, the Israeli army has been bombing and shelling the densely populated Gaza Strip, in retaliation to rockets fired by Hamas and other militant groups. Yet Israeli air strikes and shelling on the Gaza Strip have overwhelmingly targeted civilian buildings, houses, infrastructure, agricultural lands and economic establishments, and most recently buildings housing offices of media agencies. As of May 17, 2021, the Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip has already caused the death of 198 persons, including 58 children and 35 women, and 1,300 were injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Entire families have been killed by Israel’s “targeted” bombings. There are no shelters and safe areas in the Gaza Strip, where civilians could seek refuge to escape the bombings, and no one can leave the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli Occupying Power has closed all crossings into Gaza, and the Gaza Strip is besieged from the land, air and sea.
63 governmental offices have been destroyed, including the Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Social Development headquarters. Four residential towers have been completely destroyed, which housed about 300 apartments, and three have been partially destroyed. These towers were located in a main commercial area in the Gaza Strip, and hundreds of commercial shops have also been severely damaged. Four local banks have also been bombed, and two mosques have been destroyed, and others damaged. A preliminary estimate is that 719 houses have been fully or partially destroyed, and over 2,500 people have been made homeless. 41 educational facilities have sustained damage, as well as 10 health facilities, including 6 hospitals. Vast areas of roads and main avenues in the center of Gaza city and the north Gaza Strip have been destroyed. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) keeps increasing, as of May 16, there were 38,000 IDPs seeking protection in 48 UNRWA schools across Gaza.
About 10,000 houses are without water or sanitation in the north of the Gaza Strip; water supply had to be cut off due to damages to main water networks during the shelling and bombing of Gaza, and main wastewater pipes have also been damaged. Gaza’s electricity network has been severely damaged, leading to a blackout in Al-Rimal area and further decrease of electricity supply to other areas. Losses for the agricultural sector have been already estimated by the Ministry of Agriculture at more than 10 million US dollars, as crops and orchards, agricultural infrastructure and businesses have been destroyed, and farmers are unable to reach their cultivated lands, while lack of forage supplies threatens the entire animal husbandry sector. Since the beginning of the Israeli offensive, fishing at sea has been impossible, affecting about 5000 persons, who depend on this activity for a living.
The bombings of the Gaza Strip and high civilian casualties have sparked further protests in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and by Palestinians in Israel. Israel’s repression has become ever more violent, with use of live fire against protestors in the occupied West Bank alongside rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. So far, 21 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including one by an Israeli settler, and 3728 have been injured. In East Jerusalem, 1011 Palestinians have been injured, 60 of which have suffered serious injuries. Incidents of armed Israeli settlers attacking Palestinian neighborhoods and villages, blocking roads, and stoning Palestinian vehicles have multiplied in the past days, and they do so with the full protection of the Israeli army.
The current escalation of the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is a direct result of Israel’s policies and internal politics. In past years, in any political crisis or elections, Israeli political leaders have adopted policies to secure the votes or political support of settler groups and religious ultra-nationalist Jews. Over the past weeks, Israeli steps to proceed with plans to forcibly expulse Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and replace them by Israeli settlers, decisions to prevent Moslem worshipers from reaching and praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque & the Dome of the Rock, Islam’s third holiest site, during the month of Ramadan, and attacks on worshippers inside the holy site, must to be read against the background of Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu efforts to stay in power by causing the failure of the formation of a government under an alternative leadership, create the conditions for forming a national unity government under his continued leadership, and save himself from prosecution for corruption. Far-right racist and supremacist groups and extremist settler groups have been allowed to march through Jerusalem chanting “death to Arabs” (a march organized by the Lehava group) and organize attacks against Palestinian civilians and their properties in East Jerusalem and mixed cities inside Israel (where both Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis live), in the midst of constant incitement by politicians such as Itamar Ben Gvir, of the racist supremacist “Jewish Power” party that recently entered the Israeli parliament, who tweeted “it is time to liberate the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and show them who owns the house once and for all”. Israeli forces have not only failed to protect Palestinian civilians, but used violent repression tactics against them as they tried to protect themselves and their neighborhoods from these attacks. Nothing was done to deescalate the situation.
The Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine calls upon civil society organizations and movements worldwide, and particularly the trade union movement, to mobilize in order to put pressure on Israel to stop its bombings of civilians in the Gaza Strip, its violent repression against Palestinian protestors, and the forced expulsion of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas. Spread information about what is happening, reach out to your elected representatives and governments, voice your solidarity through petitions, letters, social media and peaceful protests.
The international community has a duty to intervene and take action to stop the escalation of violence, protect civilians, and uphold international humanitarian law and international human rights law. All parties that violate international law must be held to account, and Israel’s impunity must end.
We also ask you to continue mobilizing for ending the Israeli occupation and reaching a just peace, on the basis of international law and UN resolutions, with the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian State based on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the realization of the right to return of Palestinian refugees.
Finally, the people of Gaza are in urgent need for humanitarian assistance. The health sector needs medical supplies. People, who lost their homes or had to seek refuge elsewhere, need food, drinking water, blankets, clothes, and sanitary supplies. They will also need support and assistance for repairing and rebuilding their homes and businesses, rehabilitating damaged agricultural lands, and meeting the needs of their families until they can regain employment. The tremendous devastation caused by the Israeli offensive has left people homeless, but also destroyed more jobs and further debilitated the economy, in a context where the unemployment rate reached 47% in 2020, and over half the population lives under the poverty line.