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The Israeli military is committing “horrific crimes” against civilians in Gaza, a human rights group said on Sunday.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called for an “urgent international investigation” into field executions, torture and threats of rape against Palestinians by Israeli ground forces in Gaza.

Palestinians arrested in their homes and later released told the Geneva-based group that they were stripped naked and attacked with “machine guns, electric cables and cold water.”

A 16-year-old boy told the Euro-Med Monitor that Israeli forces stormed his family’s home in Shujaiya, near Gaza City, after they were besieged for a week without food or water.

“He stated that over the past few days, Israeli forces killed everyone in his neighborhood who tried to leave their home, including [his] brother,” the rights group said.

The boy’s family were “gathered naked and handcuffed before being violently assaulted and beaten,” Euro-Med Monitor added. The teen “still does not know what happened to his mother and sisters, who were captured and kidnapped by the Israeli army.”

Euro-Med Monitor says that it has collected testimonies from people who witnessed field executions of unarmed civilians by Israeli troops in Gaza City.

A pregnant woman who was sheltering at a hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, told the group that an “Israeli soldier pointed his gun at her head and threatened to kill her even though she had told him she was five months pregnant.”

“The soldier ordered her to take off her clothes and threatened to rape her,” the Euro-Med Monitor added.

Israeli military’s significant losses

More than 18,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in Israeli attacks since 7 October, 300 of them in the last 24 hours alone, health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qedra said on Sunday. The majority of those killed are women and children.

The Israel military is meanwhile suffering significant losses at the hands of the Palestinian resistance.

This includes a failed attempt to rescue an Israeli captive that reportedly resulted in the man’s death, with the armed wing of Hamas publishing a video showing his body, and the serious injury of two soldiers.

Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said in a video published on Sunday that the group’s fighters completely destroyed or damaged 180 Israeli military vehicles in the 10 days after a temporary truce ended.

He said that Israeli leaders’ talk of eliminating the resistance is catered for domestic consumption and to satisfy the “bloodthirsty right-wing.”
“The enemy is still receiving blows from us and our resistance,” Abu Obeida said, “and what is coming is greater.”

The resistance spokesperson said that Israel’s ground offensive has only achieved destruction and indiscriminate killing, adding that none of the remaining captives held in Gaza would be released except on Qassam’s terms.

Facing formidable resistance by Palestinian fighters, the Israeli military is meting out its wrath against civilians. The vast majority of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people has been displaced from their homes and many are starving as a complete siege enters its third month.

António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said during the annual Doha Forum in Qatar on Sunday that “we are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system” in Gaza.

On Saturday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that “the ability of the UN to receive incoming aid has been significantly impaired.”

This was due to “a shortage of trucks within Gaza, telecommunications blackouts” and the inability of staff to safely reach Rafah crossing “due to the intensity of hostilities,” according to OCHA.

Limited aid distribution is taking place almost exclusively in Rafah, in southern Gaza.

“Aid distribution in the rest of the Gaza Strip has largely stopped over the past few days due to the intensity of hostilities and restrictions of movement,” UN OCHA added.

The UN secretary-general said that “the situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region.”

He warned of a breakdown of “public order” and the spread of “epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt.”

Palestinians rescue people injured in a deadly Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on 7 December. (Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills)

Pressure on the Gaza-Egypt border

“Thinning out the Gazan population” and pushing Palestinians out of Gaza to Egypt – the Israeli war cabinet’s apparent strategic objectives – are bearing out on the ground.

On Saturday, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), warned that “the developments we are witnessing point to attempts to move Palestinians into Egypt, regardless of whether they stay there or are resettled elsewhere.”

He added that “the decimation of northern Gaza and the displacement of millions of Gazans to the south is the first stage of such a scenario, and it is already complete.”

“The next stage is underway — forcing people out of the urban center in Khan Younis and closer to the Egyptian border,” Lazzarini said.

Carl Skau, the World Food Program’s deputy executive director, said on Friday after a visit to Gaza that the UN’s largest humanitarian aid agency is unable to fulfill its mandate.

“With just a fraction of the needed food supplies coming in, a fatal absence of fuel, interruptions to communications systems and no security for our staff or for the people we serve at food distributions, we cannot do our job,” Skau said.

He added that a survey done during a week-long temporary truce that collapsed 10 ago “showed that Gazans are simply not eating.”

He added that “nine out of ten families in some areas spent a full day and night without any food at all.”

“When asked how often this happened, they told us that for up to 10 days in the past month, they had not eaten food.”

Manufactured victory

Desperate for a victory to sell to the public, Israel’s propaganda organs have attempted to pass off videos and photos of civilian detainees as surrendered Hamas fighters.

Those videos and images showing stripped detainees were quickly discredited and have turned into a PR embarrassment for the military.

The Palestinians who the Israeli military turned into a spectacle include children, a human rights researcher, a journalist and the owner of an aluminum workshop.

Some of those who were rounded up have been released. Others have been effectively disappeared, including Diaa Kahlout, a correspondent for The New Arab who had remained in northern Gaza because one of his children is partially paralyzed and he wished to continue reporting in the area.

In October, Israel dropped flyers in northern Gaza ordering its more than one million residents to evacuate to the south while threatening the safety of anyone who remained.
A senior UN official said at the time that “civilians must be protected and have the essentials to survive, wherever they are and whether they choose to move or stay.”

Brian Finucane, an analyst at the International Crisis Group and a former legal adviser to the US State Department, told The New York Times that “the presumption that military-aged males are combatants is troubling.”

Israel’s evacuation orders do not permit them to “presumptively round up or detain people who disregarded it,” he said. Finucane added that international law “prohibits outrages on personal dignity and humiliating and degrading treatment.”

According to the Euro-Med Monitor, Israeli forces rounded up men at gunpoint at two UNRWA schools being used as shelters for displaced people in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza.

“Euro-Med Monitor has documented incidents of sniping and direct killing carried out by the Israeli army against displaced people in the vicinity of the two aforementioned schools,” the Geneva-based group stated on Thursday.

The Israeli army “targeted everyone who tried to leave, even though they were raising white flags.”

Meanwhile, videos filmed by Israeli soldiers showing themselves setting fire to food and water supplies in Gaza and vandalizing a shop circulated on social media in recent days:

US guarantees more massacres

The US guaranteed the continuation of Israel’s massacres and other atrocities by vetoing a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire on Friday.

Tellingly, during his address to the UN Security Council, US diplomat Robert Wood described Hamas’ 7 October military operation as “the worst attack on our people in several decades.”

He also said that Hamas remains “in charge of Gaza,” implicitly recognizing Israel’s failure to deliver on its stated goal of eradicating the group even after two months of relentless bombardment that has destroyed vast swathes of the territory.
Meanwhile, the State Department has bypassed Congress to expedite the sale of some 14,000 tank shells to Israel.

The Pentagon stated that the secretary of state used an Arms Export Control Act emergency declaration for the 120 mm high explosive tank cartridges worth some $106 million. Antony Blinken justified the measure by saying that the immediate provision of the weapons to Israel was in the national security interests of the US.

Israel used 120 mm tank rounds to attack a group of journalists in southern Lebanon in October, killing Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah, severely wounding AFP photographer Christina Assi and injuring several others.

The shells are part of a larger sale of weapons that the Biden administration has asked Congress to approve, including 45,000 shells for Merkava tanks like those deployed by Israel in Gaza.
The Biden administration’s spokespeople have been on the defensive over the unprecedented slaughter of civilians in Gaza.

“It is not the Israeli Defense Force’s strategy to kill innocent people,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said last week:

“It’s happening, I admit that,” Kirby said. “But it’s not like the Israelis are sitting around every morning and saying, ‘Hey, how many more civilians can we kill today? Let’s go bomb a school or a hospital or a residential building and cause civilian casualties.’”

Aid as fig leaf for genocide

The Biden administration is meanwhile continuing to use humanitarian aid as a fig leaf for the genocide it is helping Israel perpetrate in Gaza.

Jeremy Konyndyk, the president of the Washington-based charity Refugees International who had senior roles in both the Biden and Obama administrations, said that “Gaza is on the cusp of a major wave of secondary mortality.”

Konyndyk added that “Biden’s continued opposition to a ceasefire, and refusal to put meaningful restraints on [the Israeli military], functionally mean accepting that outcome.”

He said that the US government is “still trying a ‘both-and’ policy of supporting war fully and making marginal gains on aid.”

“The reality at this point is a zero-sum tradeoff between continuing the war or preventing a much larger humanitarian calamity,” Konyndyk added.

That “both-and” policy is embodied by Samantha Power, the USAID director who built her career on the premise that the US has an obligation to prevent atrocities, and John Kirby, the White House spokesperson.

Both Biden administration officials stress the trickle of humanitarian aid delivered to Gaza as a means of covering up the destruction wrought by Israel with US-sourced weapons and unconditional support from Washington.

Name me one more nation … that is doing as much as the United States to alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Gaza,” Kirby said during a press briefing last week.

“Name another nation that is doing more to urge its Israeli counterparts, our Israeli counterparts, to be as cautious and deliberate as they can be in the prosecution of their military operations,” Kirby added.
Those supposed efforts to ensure the protection of civilians have borne out an unprecedented rate of killing of noncombatants, as determined by a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Haaretz’s study found that Israel has abandoned both the principle of distinction between combatants and civilians and the principle of proportionality prohibiting attacks against military objectives that would cause incidental harm to civilians.

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid is being weaponized in Gaza.

Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, which is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, said that instead of alleviating civilian suffering, humanitarian aid is being treated as “a strategic dimension of foreign policy and diplomatic competition – an instrument of power and war.”

Euro-Med Monitor said on Friday that a child with cerebral palsy died at an UNRWA school in southern Gaza “from malnourishment and a shortage of oxygen, which was required for her condition.”

The group said that international organizations “using security pretexts to leave civilians in the Gaza Strip on their own and starving to death is unacceptable.”

“The World Food Program, UNRWA, and the International Committee of the Red Cross must take direct responsibility for the escalation of the starvation war occurring in the Gaza Strip,” Euro-Med Monitor added.

Source: Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.

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