Tue 11-June-2024

Euro-Med: Israeli destruction of schools, health centers in Gaza is continuation of the genocide

Thursday 16-May-2024


The Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights has charged the Israeli army of deliberately destroying schools and health facilities during its ground invasion of the Zaitoun neighborhood in southern Gaza City and Jabalia in northern Gaza. This destruction is part of a comprehensive campaign to annihilate all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip, as part of the genocide targeting the Palestinians there.

The Monitor stated in a statement that the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Zaitoun neighborhood on Wednesday, May 15th, after seven days of the ground invasion, revealed the destruction of three schools: Ein Jalut, Ata al-Shawa, and Hassan al-Nakhala, which were previously funded by Japan. Additionally, the medical clinic of Zaitoun, which served approximately 80,000 residents of the neighborhood, was also destroyed.

The Euro-Med Monitor highlighted that the Israeli army’s military operation in the Zaitoun neighborhood, which started at dawn last Thursday – the third since the beginning of the aggression on the Gaza Strip – included a ground incursion with military vehicles, intense airstrikes, and artillery, forcing hundreds of families to flee. This was accompanied by the demolition of more residential blocks, turning the neighborhood into heaps of rubble.

The Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights also emphasized that Israeli warplanes bombed the four-story building of the Sabra Clinic, which was run by UNRWA in the Sabra neighborhood, south of Gaza, at 4:30 am on Wednesday. The clinic housed approximately 50 displaced persons, including women, children, and the injured, some of whom were killed or injured, while the rest were rescued from under the rubble.

The airstrike on the clinic came two days after the Israeli forces invaded the area and destroyed its external wall. The people inside were not asked to evacuate, which gave them a sense of security, only for them to be betrayed by the Israeli forces, who bombed the clinic without prior warning.

Safia Roshdi Arheem, 43 years old, informed the Mediterranean Observatory team that she was displaced with her husband and children from the Zaitoun neighborhood to the Sabra Clinic. They were startled by the sound of F-16 fighter jets which launched four missiles that hit the four floors and destroyed the clinic with everyone inside. She added that her husband, Taysir Sulaiman Arheem, 47 years old, was wounded for the second time during this war, along with their son Sulaiman, 24 years old. She mentioned that she and the other displaced persons felt relatively safe in the clinic, especially after the Israeli forces penetrated the area and destroyed the external wall with bulldozers. They were not asked to leave the place but received messages through the phone after the Israeli forces approached the Zaitoun neighborhood. That’s why they stayed in their place until the planes came and destroyed the clinic. She confirmed that she and her family members managed to escape from under the rubble, while there were casualties and injuries among several families.

The Euro-Med Monitor pointed out that Israeli forces have recently stormed six UNRWA schools in Jabalia, northern Gaza, which were housing thousands of displaced people. The schools were targeted with shelling and gunfire, forcing the displaced individuals to evacuate once again. Many were arrested or killed, and it is unclear whether the schools have been completely destroyed or partially damaged as a result of the attacks.

The Monitor also highlighted that these schools add to the hundreds that have been completely or partially destroyed by Israeli forces since October 7th of last year. The destruction has occurred through aerial and artillery bombardment, as well as demolitions or bulldozing.

Furthermore, the Euro-Med Monitor said that Israel has destroyed 80% of Gaza’s schools, either partially or entirely, in its military assault since October 7th. In a joint statement issued on April 18th, experts from the United Nations described this destruction as an educational extermination that deprives another generation of Palestinians of their future.

These findings were confirmed by a study conducted by The New York Times, which revealed that over 80% of schools and universities in Gaza have been destroyed or severely damaged since the start of the Israeli aggression on October 7th. The study further explained that more than 200 schools in the Strip have been directly hit by rockets, bombs, or artillery fire.

The Euro-Med Monitor also noted that even schools under the administration of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which have been converted into shelters for hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced civilians, have been subjected to intense Israeli attacks. Some of these attacks have occurred repeatedly and at different intervals, including in areas declared by the Israeli army as “safe”.

The Euro-Med Monitor mentioned that the Israeli army has systematically militarized civilian areas, including transforming schools, educational facilities, and hospitals into military bases as part of its ongoing military assault on the Gaza Strip, which has been ongoing for eight months. This constitutes a clear violation of international law and the rules of war.

The Observatory stated that the Israeli army not only targeted schools extensively through shelling and massive destruction but also committed serious crimes against protected persons within these schools. They deliberately and directly targeted them through aerial and ground military operations, including unlawful killings and executions. Additionally, they converted some schools into military bases, deployment points for their forces and vehicles, detention and interrogation centers, and committed acts of torture. These actions contradict the rules of international humanitarian law, which are designed to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure from the dangers of military operations. They also violate Israel’s obligations as the occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which requires taking all necessary measures to ensure the education of children, orphans, and children separated from their parents due to war.

The Observatory also noted the conversion of the Turkish Friendship Hospital into an Israeli military site after parts of it were destroyed by shelling and demolition. This has been a recurring pattern with many civilian structures.

In this context, the Euro-Med Monitor reiterated that the Israeli army has transformed many schools in different areas of the Gaza Strip into military bases and detention centers during its field invasion of most areas in the enclave. One example is the Salah al-Din Preparatory School in Gaza City, which was converted into a detention and interrogation center for hundreds of residents in February.

The Israeli army has also destroyed and demolished civilian structures after converting them into military headquarters, as was the case months ago with the Isra University in southern Gaza City. All of these actions are taken without regard for the rules of international humanitarian law, including principles of distinction, proportionality, and military necessity.

It is estimated that over 6,500 students and 756 teachers have been killed or injured in the Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip until mid-April, with numbers increasing every day. At least 625,000 students have been deprived of their right to education for a full academic year.

The Euro-Med Monitor recalled statements by the head of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Agnes Callamard, who stated that the education system in Gaza no longer exists at this stage. Schools are being used as shelters or destroyed in Israeli airstrikes, leaving no space for children’s learning.

In a report published on December 13th, the Mediterranean Observatory documented how the Israeli army transformed schools, where tens of thousands of displaced people sought shelter, into military centers and fields of execution. At that time, the Monitor published testimonies about the deliberate execution and killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces after they were held for days inside schools they had sought refuge in following their displacement from their homes.

In March, nearly 100 distinguished European academics condemned the genocide being carried out by Israel against civilians in Gaza, deliberately targeting and physically and culturally liquidating them. This includes the systematic targeting and destruction of the education system in the Strip.

The Monitor emphasized the importance of protecting schools during the military attacks carried out by Israel against the Gaza Strip. It called for international pressure on Israel to cease its military operations against schools in the Strip. This is crucial to ensure the right of Palestinian children to education and their prompt return to their schools, despite the urgent need for repair and reconstruction of these schools and verification that there are no weapons or military equipment before they can be safely used again.

The Monitor pointed out that the practice of converting educational facilities into military bases is an extension of the colonial legacy of domination and the dismantling of the authentic and fundamental components of peoples, particularly in terms of culture and education.

The Euro-Med Monitor reminded the international community of the catastrophic conditions in which children in the Gaza Strip live. They are among the most vulnerable groups during armed conflicts and are now suffering even more from the ongoing Israeli military assault on the enclave. They lack any form of protection provided under international law and have become direct and deliberate targets of killings, executions, intentional and indiscriminate attacks carried out by the Israeli army. They are also victims of starvation, siege, deprivation of healthcare and basic survival necessities, and prolonged denial of education. These circumstances will impact their ability to enjoy their other rights, make them more susceptible to poverty, unemployment, and exploitation, and pose a danger of depriving entire generations of education and undermining their ability to rebuild Palestinian society in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli military attack ends.

The Euro-Med Monitor reiterated its call for enabling investigative and specialized technical committees to enter the Gaza Strip and investigate the horrific crimes committed by Israel. It demands holding Israel accountable for its serious violations of all rules of international law, including the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, through the collective targeting of the population of the Gaza Strip due to their Palestinian identity, including the approach of killing, physical and mental harm, undermining the means of survival, and imposing forced mass displacement.

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