While on trial for occupation, Israel is entrenching its military in Gaza – Day 137

While on trial for occupation, Israel is entrenching its military in Gaza – Day 137

Israel building a road to cut Gaza in two; food deliveries stop in north, severely limited everywhere else; still no evidence for UNRWA after Israel’s bombshell accusation; female and male Palestinian ex-prisoners report sexual assault, US unfazed; Israel reportedly opens fire on members of Palestinian press; US vetos ceasefire resolution at UN Security Council; Day Two of Int’l Court of Justice proceedings against Israeli occupation; and more

By IAK staff, from reports

Wall Street Journal reports: The Israeli army is expanding a road across central Gaza to facilitate its military operations and give it a tighter grasp on the territory, even after most troops pull out. The Israeli army already controls major north-south roads in Gaza.

Israel aims to finish constructing the highway before the beginning of Ramadan on March 10 and ahead of its planned invasion of Rafah, and will reportedly be in use at least until the end of 2024.

The Israeli military is also building a roughly 1-kilometer (5/8 mile) buffer zone just inside Gaza’s border with Israel, where Palestinians would be barred from entry.

US officials have publicly voiced opposition to the creation of a buffer zone.

NOTE: UN human rights chief Volker Turk has stated: Destructions carried out to create a ‘buffer zone’ for general security purposes do not appear consistent with…international humanitarian law.
Further, extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, amounts to a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a war crime.
This destruction of homes and other basic civilian infrastructure also leads to the permanent displacement of communities… I remind the [Israeli] authorities that the forcible transfer of civilians may constitute a war crime.

Al Jazeera reports: Footage shared on social media shows sit-ins in front of the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing blocking the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. Comments on the post say (in Hebrew), “Order 9” [referring to a military order that calls up reservists] operatives blocked the Kerem Shalom crossing and now not a single truck enters Gaza from it.

NOTE: Videos appear to indicate some Israeli military presence at the crossing, but (with exceptions) little effort to move the protesters out of the way so the trucks can pass. Israel declared the area a closed military zone to deter protesters, but the move has not succeeded

Palestine Chronicle reports: The World Food Program (WFP) announced on Tuesday that it would be “pausing deliveries” of food aid to the north “until conditions are in place that allow for safe distributions.”

WFP had suspended services in the north for 3 weeks after an Israeli airstrike hit an UNRWA truck. After restarting deliveries, the convoy was mobbed by desperate Gazans and met with gunfire. Due to the “complete chaos and violence” and “collapse of civil order,” WFP took the decision to halt aid for the time being.

The government media office in Gaza said the decision amounts “to a death sentence for 750,000 people.”

OCHA figures on truckloads of aid entering Gaza
OCHA figures on truckloads of aid entering Gaza (graphic)

Al Jazeera reports: UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini has said that the refugee agency is still waiting for Israel to share evidence for its allegations that a dozen UNRWA employees took part in the October 7 attacks on Israel.

“The UN has never, never, ever received any written dossier, despite our repeated call for cooperation from the Israeli authorities,” Lazzarini said in an interview today.

Several news outlets that have seen the Israeli dossier that is the basis of the claims have concluded that it includes no proof for its claims.

RECOMMENDED READING (+972 Magazine): Rugs, cosmetics, motorbikes: Israeli soldiers are looting Gaza homes en masse

Al Jazeera reports: Abdullah al-Zaghari, head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, has shared updates at a news conference in Ramallah Tuesday, including:

  • There are testimonies and indicators that Palestinian men and female prisoners have been sexually assaulted. The statement issued by the UN yesterday pointed out for the first time that female prisoners are being violated in a grave manner, and serious crimes are being committed against them.
  • There are at least two female prisoners from Gaza who were raped. Many others threatened with rape, and have suffered sexual assault and strip-searches.
  • This is in addition to testimonies we received surrounding male prisoners who have been exposed to severe sexual assault including extreme beatings on genitals and attempts of rape as well as humiliating strip searches.

(Read more here.)

Al Jazeera reports: US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller has said that detained individuals “must be treated humanely” following UN reports of sexual abuse of Palestinian detainees by Israeli forces, but declined to offer any follow-up steps that may be taken on the matter.

“We have been clear that civilians and detainees must be treated humanely, and in accordance with international humanitarian law. We strongly encourage Israel to thoroughly and transparently investigate credible allegations and ensure accountability for abuses and violations,” Miller told reporters.

NOTE: The US has yet to take any concrete steps to address widespread reports that Palestinian detainees, many rounded up and held without charge by Israeli forces, have been subjected to torture and inhumane conditions.

Also, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller has reiterated that the US does not believe Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute genocide, as countries such as South Africa and some experts on international law have suggested.

“We have been quite clear that we do not believe that genocide has occurred in Gaza,” he added.

NOTE: While a number of pro-Israel groups, states, and individuals have denounced South Africa’s genocide accusation and the International Court of Justice’s findings, none have addressed the charges in any meaningful way. There is a reason for that: experts in the field have declared that Israel’s actions do in fact constitute genocide.

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombing of the Nusseirat refugee camp in Gaza, February 15, 2024
Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombing of the Nusseirat refugee camp in Gaza, February 15, 2024 (photo)

Footage posted to X by the Shehab News Agency, based in Palestine, shows journalists, clearly marked in “Press” ballistics vests, apparently targeted by Israeli forces, running through the city’s destroyed streets as explosions and small arms fire can be heard in the background.

Translation: The occupation army directly opened fire on journalists Hassan Hamad, Hossam Shabat, and Malak Abu Hussein while they were covering the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza.

WEST BANK – WAFA reports: Israeli occupation forces detained tonight six Palestinian minors in the village of Aboud to the west of Ramallah. Forces also detained the Head of the Rentis Village Council at a military checkpoint near Ramallah, according to security sources.

Five were aged 13 and the sixth aged 16.

Israel regularly arrests Palestinian children – often over minor alleged offenses – and keeps them in custody for prolonged periods of time without due process under so-called “administrative detention”.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield casts a veto vote during a UN Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war, at UN Headquarters in New York City on February 20, 2024.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield casts a veto vote during a UN Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war, at UN Headquarters in New York City on February 20, 2024. (photo)

Al Jazeera reports: The US has vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that would have called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. It was the Biden administration’s third veto in favor of Israel at the Security Council since the war broke out.

On October 18, the US vetoed a Security Council draft resolution that would have called for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting in Gaza. On December 8, Washington again used its veto power to block a proposal calling for a ceasefire.

Today’s vote reflects Washington’s so-called “unwavering” support for Israel despite apparent disagreements between the two allies.

Reactions to US veto of ceasefire resolution in UN Security Council:

  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “This policy makes the United States a partner in the crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing and the war crimes Israeli forces are committing.”
  • Palestine ambassador Riyad H. Mansour: “The veto of this draft resolution is not only regrettable … but also absolutely reckless and dangerous, again shielding Israel even after it commits the most shocking crimes, while exposing millions of innocent Palestinian people to more untold horrors.”
  • Mustafa Barghouti (opinion polls indicate that a broad segment of Palestinians want Barghouti to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president): “A shameful American position allowing the continuation of the Genocide, collective punishment and starvation of 2.3 million Palestinians.”
  • Director of Amnesty International, Agnes Callamard: “And yet again… when the US could do the right thing: protect Palestinians against serious risks of genocide; respect international law and universality; prevent massive killings and sufferings – it chose the opposite path.”
  • Save the Children director for the occupied Palestinian territories, Jason Lee: “We are appalled to hear of this new low in an already deep pit of failures from the international community…we are running out of words to describe what children and families in Gaza are going through.”
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations CAIR) director Nihad Awad: “The latest US veto of a UN ceasefire resolution is shameful. President Biden should stop acting like Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense lawyer and start acting like the President of the United States.”
  • Hamas: “The American position is considered a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres and kill our innocent people through bombing and starvation.”
  • Palestinian American comedian and organizer Amer Zahr: “Shamefully, the United States continues to support the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians…Biden once again shows us that Palestinian lives are simply not valuable to him. He could stop the massacres at once. He could put an end to it all with one phone call. And he chooses not to. As Arab Americans, his stance is very clear to us.”

Ambassador Riyad Mansour argues before the International Court of Justice during its public hearings on the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, Feb. 19, 2024
Ambassador Riyad Mansour argues before the International Court of Justice during its public hearings on the policies and practices of Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories, Feb. 19, 2024 (photo)

Summary of International Court of Justice proceedings, Tuesday

  • Ten countries presented their arguments on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
  • South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Belgium made their case during the morning session, with Belize, Bolivia, Brazil and Chile delivering their statements in the afternoon.
  • Canada was also initially scheduled to present its arguments but decided to pull out at the last minute.
  • Kicking off proceedings, the representative of South Africa compared the Israeli occupation to apartheid and said the ICJ’s hearings could help bring an end to a system of racial oppression that had no place in the modern world.
  • Overall, the speakers’ main points revolved around the right of Palestinian people to self-determination and the permanent nature of Israel’s occupation, which is resulting in a de facto annexation.
  • They also stressed Israel’s obligation to cease its violations, make full reparation and offer appropriate assurances of non-repetition. Other states have the obligation to cooperate to bring this situation to an end.
  • For a detailed account, go here.

Children walk under the collapsed roof of al-Huda Mosque, destroyed in one of Israel’s airstrikes on Rafah.
Children walk under the collapsed roof of al-Huda Mosque, destroyed in one of Israel’s airstrikes on Rafah. (photo)

Andalou Agency reports: The Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner Society confirmed that detainee Khaled Al-Shawish, 53, who had been in a wheelchair, died in the Israeli Nafha prison.

The statement noted that Al-Shawish was one of the detainees in Israeli jails who was suffering from a chronic disease, and in Israeli jail since 2007, and was sentenced to an 11-term life sentence.

His death brings the number of Palestinian detainees who died in Israeli jails since Oct. 7 to nine, the statement added.


Palestinian death toll from October 7 – February 20: at least 29,490* (29,195 in Gaza* (over 12,660 children, 8,570 women), and at least 398 in the West Bank (100 children). This does not include an estimated 7,000 more still buried under rubble (4,900 women and children). Euro-Med Monitor reports 36,671 Palestinian deaths.

About 1.7 million, or 75% of Gaza’s population are currently displaced.

Palestinian injuries from October 7 – February 20: at least 73,539** (including at least 69,170 in Gaza and 4,511 in the West Bank).

It remains unknown how many Americans are among the casualties in Gaza.

Reported Israeli death toll from October 7 – February 20: ~1,387 (~1,139 on October 7, 2023, of which ~574 were civilians, 373 or 337 were security and/or military forces, ~32 were Americans, and ~36 were children); 236 military forces since the ground invasion began in Gaza;, 12 in the West Bank) and~8,730 injured.

NBC reports: “According to the latest available IDF data… nearly 1 in 5, or 17%, of all Israel’s losses have come not at the hands of Hamas but from mishaps on its own side.”

NOTE: It is unknown at this time how many of the deaths and injuries in Israel on October 7 were caused by Israeli soldiers.

*Previously, IAK did not include 471 Gazans killed in the Al Ahli hospital blast since the source of the projectile was being disputed. However, given that much evidence points to Israel as the culprit, Israel had previously bombed the hospital and has attacked many others, Israel is prohibiting outside experts from investigating the scene, and since the UN and other agencies are including the deaths from the attack in their cumulative totals, if Americans knew is now also doing so.

Find previous daily casualty figures and daily news updates here.

For more news, go here and hereBroadcast news from the region is here.

Hover over each bar for exact numbers.
Source: IsraelPalestineTimeline.org

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