Entering its 23rd day, the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip continues without respite, with the death toll of Palestinians rising past 8,000. Palestinian refugee camps, in particular, have come under intense aerial bombardment that has caused massive destruction.
PRC remains gravely concerned by the continuing and unlawful attacks on Palestinian refugees, civilians, and refugee camps in different areas of the Gaza Strip. These attacks have had tragic and indiscriminate consequences, resulting in an untold human misery for hundreds of displaced families.
The latest of Israel’s deadly fire bolts occurred overnight at AlNuseirat Camp, in central Gaza Strip, where entire residential neighborhoods have been turned into mounds of rubble. Dozens of residents have been reported dead and dozens more injured. The number of victims has not yet been confirmed.
Perhaps, one of the most shocking crimes committed by the Israeli military have been documented in Jabalia refugee camp, to the north of the besieged enclave, where scenes of destruction, bloodshed, and despair are spotted in all corners of the camp. In live footages from a strike launched on the camp, the so-called “Six Martyrs” neighborhood appears to have been entirely razed to the ground.
On October 22, thirty bodies, most of them women and children, have been recovered from underneath the ruins of bombed buildings in Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, the largest of eight refugee camps in the strip. At least 27 people were also injured, with hospitals saying they were struggling to treat the wounded.
On October 9, Israeli air attacks hit a market in one of the busiest areas in Gaza with at least 50 people killed in the attack. Initial reports suggested a large number of casualties in the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp. Footage captured on air showed frantic scenes as rescue workers began to pull people from under the rubble. A UNRWA-run school was also hit in the attack on the camp.
Even a refugee camp in Gaza is no longer a safe place to seek shelter into. The enclave’s eight refugee camps—Beach, Bureij, Deir El-Balah, Jabalia, Khan Younis, Maghazi, Nuseirat, Rafah—have been cruelly pummeled by Israeli warplanes, turning them into mass graveyards; PRC sources from the battleground were able to gather testimonies of entire families being buried under the rubble of their destroyed houses while others can be seen collecting the body parts of their relatives, children, and friends from under the ruins. On several occasions, the only survivor from a family is a little boy and girl who seems not be able to figure out what has happened to his/her parents. The sense of trauma and horror pervading the minds and hearts of these children is just unfathomable.
Up to the moment of writing, Israel’s escalating bombardments on displacement camps across the Gaza Strip continue to target and destroy civilian objects, including multi-storied residential buildings, medical facilities, mosques, water and sanitation facilities.
For 23 consecutive days, these displacement camps have had no electricity or flow of fuel, forcing health facilities and water and sanitation services to collapse. Communication services, including internet and cellular services, have now almost been completely disrupted. Acute shortages of water, food and medicine are threatening the survival of tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians who are trapped with nowhere to flee for safety.
Until October 26, at least 53 staff serving in UN-recognized camps for Palestinian refugees were reported killed in Israeli strikes since October 7.
UN data indicates that almost 640,000 internally displaced Palestinians are sheltering in 150 UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip, where overcrowding conditions and limited availability of assistance are contributing to rising tensions, exacerbating protection and health risks.
These attacks are inexcusable. Nothing can justify the use of civilian shelters and displacement camps as war targets. International law prohibits all violations of the rights and safety of refugees, particularly those perpetrated by military or armed attacks against refugee camps and shelters for the displaced. Palestinian refugee camps have an exclusively civilian and humanitarian character and all concerned parties should work to guarantee the safety of refugees and the displaced.
Palestinian refugees (1.7 million) make up more than 70% of the Gaza Strip’s 2.1 million population. Israeli attacks on refugee camps amount to a crime of ethnic cleansing and a genocide seeking to annihilate a civilian population under the pretext of self-denfense. Neither Palestinian refugees nor displacement camps should be turned into bargaining chips.
A blockade on land, air and sea imposed by Israel following 2007 has already turned the enclave into a hell on earth. There are now very few options left for the people of Gaza, who have been living under collective punishment and have no longer safe shelters to hide into. The attacks on civilian shelters stand in sharp contrast to international humanitarian law as they target and impose hardship on the civilian population, effectively penalizing them for acts they have not committed.
PRC strongly urges the international community to pressurize Israel to abstain from these crimes, which are against the principles of international law and, therefore, cannot be justified, whatever the pretext.
UNRWA and the United Nations should make every effort to promote conditions which ensure the safety of Palestinian refugees in camps in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, immediately and without further delay.