Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem are facing forced displacement to make space for Israeli settlers, with the risk to four Palestinian families “imminent” according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Forced displacement of Palestinians has been ongoing since 1948. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, since 2009, Israel has displaced 11,408 Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 30 percent of land used for Israeli settlements is acknowledged by the Israeli government as having been privately owned by Palestinians.
East Jerusalem is part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory where International Humanitarian Law applies. As the occupying power, Israel cannot impose its own set of laws to evict Palestinians from their homes. OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said this week: “The transfer of parts of an occupying Power’s civilian population into the territory that it occupies is prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime”. He added that “forced evictions are a key factor in creating a coercive environment that may lead to forcible transfer, which is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and is a grave breach of the Convention.”
In response to the forced displacements which have continued in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood this month, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards a number of locations in Israel killing nine Israelis. The Gaza Strip has been subject to a land, sea and air blockade which amounts to collective punishment according to the OHCHR, for 14 years. At least 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, have been killed by Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip since Monday. As air raids have left some 900 others wounded, the offices of media organisations, including The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and al-Sayed, were flattened today - The 11-storey tower also housed around 60 residential flats.
In the Occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have killed at least thirteen Palestinians bringing the total death toll of Palestinians to at least 158 in less than a week.
On 15 March 2020, Guernica 37 and Professor Kevin Jon Heller submitted an amicus curiae brief to Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court and it was made clear that Occupied Palestinian Territory is a State for the purposes of the Rome Statute, and therefore, the ICC has jurisdiction over international crimes committed on the territory of Palestine. On 5 February 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued a majority ruling in which it agreed.
The Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is within the jurisdiction of the ICC and the Prosecutor will need to look closely at the situation on the ground independently, impartially and from all sides as the rest of the world looks on in utter shock and disbelief.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda has noted with concern “the possible commissions of crimes under the Rome Statute”. The escalations have a serious impact on Palestinian and Israeli civilians and infrastructure.
The International Committee of the Red Cross in Israel and the Occupied Territory stated unequivocally "the laws of armed conflict are clear - no targeting of civilians".
The UN High Commissioner stated that the "The situation in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, triggered by threats of forced evictions of Palestinian families; the heavy presence of Israeli Security Forces and violence around the al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan; the severe escalation of attacks from and on Gaza; and the shocking incitement to racial hatred and violence in Israel have all led to vicious attacks and mounting casualties in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Israel.”
We call on Israel to cease the occupation of Palestinian territories, to cease the forced displacement of Palestinians and the collective punishment of civilians in Gaza. We call on Hamas to immediately cease indiscriminate rocket attacks. We call on all parties to the conflict to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law, ensure all civilians are protected and bring an immediate end to the hostilities.