Israel Must be Held Accountable to International Law: Palestinian NGOs Urge Foreign Ministers to Support International Protection Force for the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Yesterday, a group of some ten Palestinian NGOs, human rights organizations and institutions issued a joint letter urgently appealing to various foreign ministers around the world for clarification of their respective governments' positions regarding the violent Israeli military incursions into multiple "A Areas." The letter was addressed to: all member states of the European Union, including current president, Belgium; the G-8 states (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S. and the Russian Federation); and key states in the non-aligned movement.

The letter made several demands, including for an international protection force for the occupied Palestinian territories as soon as possible, for example under the auspices of the European Union, and for the convening of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure that Israel applies that Convention "de jure" to the OPTs.

Within the past 24-48 hours, an initiative directed at the UN Security Council has been renewed to pass a resolution sponsoring a protection force for the population of the occupied territories. Yesterday's letter to the foreign ministries adds important support to this Security Council initiative.

Since early 18 October and continuing through today, Israel's savage military assault upon six Palestinian "Area A" population centers has shown a level of barbarity and utter disrespect for even the minimal standards of international law that has characterized Ariel Sharon's entire political and military career. The deliberate lethal targeting by Israeli snipers of civilians in the street, in their schools, in grocery stores, in their homes and in churches and mosques, the deliberate shelling of hospitals and refugee camps, and the heartless refusal to let a pregnant woman in labor proceed to hospital resulting in her death by hemorrhaging at a military checkpoint, should remind the world, yet again, that Ariel Sharon and his henchmen remain unredeemedly bent upon the utter subjugation of the Palestinian people.

The true goals of Israel's political and military oligarchy are revealed in episodes like this. Since Israel has again reminded the world community so blatantly of its complete lack of military self-control, it is absolutely incumbent upon the international community to take concerted action to reign in Israel's homicidal military juggernaut. The joint letter stressed that Israel's incursions and attacks upon Palestinian civilians violate international law for several reasons. First, Israel's entire occupation is illegal, as has been recognized in numerous UN resolutions. Second, for as long as Israel persists in maintaining its illegal occupation, it is bound to comply fully with international humanitarian law, which categorically prohibits attacks upon civilian areas and any form of collective punishment.

Additionally, the deliberate targeting of civilians constitutes "willful killings" or "willfully causing serious injury," both of which are classified as "war crimes" under the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.

The letter was signed and endorsed by the following organizations: Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza); BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (Bethlehem); the Jerusalem Center for Human Rights (Jerusalem); the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (Jerusalem); LAW -- The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (Jerusalem); MIFTAH -- The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (Ramallah); Palestinian Center for Human Rights (Gaza); Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights (Gaza and Ramallah); the Palestinian Women Women's Society for Development (Ramallah and Nablus).