Palestinians have faced forced displacement and collective punishment by Israel for over 75 years - as it happened

Ahram Online , Wednesday 21 Feb 2024

ICJ hearings are going on after the US vetoed a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for a halt to the fighting, which drew criticism from the international community, including some US allies. Despite international efforts to broker a ceasefire, the 138th day of the war on Gaza has seen continued Israeli airstrikes.

Displaced Palestinians
Displaced Palestinians check a tiny coastal area of a territory named Al-Mawasi after Israeli tanks reported raided the sector, west of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on February 21, 2024. AFP


22:00 They picked up their measly belongings again to set up camp on the sands of a Gaza beach.

They set their blankets and mattresses on the ground.

They set up the tents to start all over as they cling to life despite all.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Israeli airstrikes targeted their temporary shelters in Mawasi near Khan Younis, forcing them to flee to somewhere safe.

They made sure to bring those loved ones and neighbours killed in the airstrikes with them to bury.

The men dug the graves under the sands and performed the customary Prayer for the Absent to send off the dead – hopefully to a better place.

The women got busy figuring out what to feed the children - again!

The children milled around trying to understand what just happened.

The full gallery


20:30 Chaos erupted on the floor of the House of Commons as various MPs walked out to protest a procedural decision made by Speaker Sir. Lindsay Hoyle to entertain amendments put forward by the opposition Labour Party to a proposed motion presented by the Scottish National Party (SNP), which asks the government to call for a ceasefire in the Gaza war.

Speaker Hoyle issued an impassioned apology to the MPs for his decision and promised to meet with various blocs to clear the air.

“I thought I was doing the right thing and the best thing, and I regret it, and I apologise for how it’s ended up," he said.

Commenting on the procedural row, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt said that by selecting Labour’s bid to amend the SNP motion, Speaker Hoyle had “hijacked” the debate and “undermined the confidence” of the House.

In the end, Labour’s amendment calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza was approved without any votes taking place.

The Labour amendment, now part of the main motion, could still see further debate, taking into account the approved amendment, before it is brought to a final vote in the House of Commons.

During the debate, some Tory MPs said they would vote for the ceasefire resolution against the opposition of the government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Tory MP Mark Logan has told the House he will be rebelling against the government tonight and voting for any motion that calls for an immediate ceasefire, according to Sky News.

The Bolton North East MP said: "What I said in private scores of times before today, I now say in public: I want, my constituents want, and Gaza needs, an immediate ceasefire."

He said with so many deaths in Gaza, "Playing around with words is just playing around with people's lives."

He went on: "Israel has gone too far. It's disproportionate - it's not gone too far just today, it's gone too far already for months," reported Sky News.

With the number of deaths, he questioned: "How can we have any trust and belief that the people, the 1.5 million people now in Rafah, will also be left untouched?"

British lawmakers are set to vote on a nonbinding motion put forth by the SNP, the third largest party in Westminister, led by Humza Yousaf, urging an immediate ceasefire in the Israeli war on Gaza.

The left-wing Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, and the ruling Conservative Party, led by the British PM Rishi Sunak, presented their amendments to the SNP motion.

The House of Commons speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has decided to allow voting on all amendments, including those presented by the opposition.

Last year, in November, the Scottish parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of a motion demanding a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Amid growing domestic opposition to the Israeli war on Gaza, the Labour Party leadership, which declared its support for so-called Israel's right to defend itself" and opposed calls for a ceasefire in the Gaza war, now supports a respite in the strip.    

Similarly, also under pressure, the Tories government proposed an "immediate humanitarian pause" in the war.

The Labour Party leadership noted that Israel cannot be expected to abide by any ceasefire call if Hamas continues its violent threats. 

Meanwhile, the Tories conditioned any future ceasefire on Hamas relinquishing its control of Gaza and releasing all Israeli captives.

Since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza on 7 October, millions of people in the UK have taken part in protests, calling on Downing Street to call for an immediate ceasefire.

The vote on Wednesday underscores mounting pressure within Labour for its leadership to support calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war.

The crucial vote comes a day after the UK abstained at the UN Security Council from voting on an Algeria-drafted UNSC resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The resolution, supported by 13 members of the UNSC, was vetoed by the US. 

Similarly, more than 60 UK-based charities have issued an open letter to British MPs and ministers, urging their support for the SNP-led motion, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Wednesday's vote also comes against the backdrop of increasing public pressure from Pro-Palestine Britons, who have organized large marches in solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinians since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza.

According to a February YouGov survey, 66 percent of Britons favour Israel calling for a ceasefire and engaging in peace talks with Hamas. Only 13 percent support continuing military action, while 24 percent said they believe Israel's war on Gaza is justified. 

Additionally, the survey indicates increased sympathy for the Palestinian side, with 28 percent expressing the most sympathy for Palestinians, 22 percent for both sides equally, and only 16 Percent for Israelis. The remaining respondents said they did not know or did not specify. 

20:00 The Israeli Knesset voted overwhelmingly to ratify the Cabinet decision to abstain from any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The Arab members of the Knesset voted against the decision.

Arab MP Ahmed Al-Tayybi rejected PM Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the Knesset, saying: "A Palestinian state will be established despite all these decisions."

Several Western leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have recently said their countries would consider recognizing an independent Palestinian state.

As he continues warmongering, Netanyahu has stressed to the Israeli public that he is the only leader who is capable of stopping any project for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Many countries in the Global South have recognized the right of the Palestinians to establish their state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on the 4 June 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

18:30 On Wednesday, Al Jazeera reporter Anas Al-Sharif, who has covered the Israeli war on Gaza in the northern parts of the strip since 7 October, relayed an ominous warning on the famine conditions faced by tens of thousands of Palestinians under a total Israeli blockade in the area.

Israel has blocked all food, medicine, and fuel supplies to northern Gaza since October.

UN and international aid organizations have been calling on Israel to allow humanitarian aid shipments in northern Gaza to stave off hunger and malnourishment faced by thousands, especially children.

On Tuesday, a UNICEF study found that one in six children in Gaza City is acutely malnourished because of the Israeli blockade.



17:30 France has condemned statements by Israeli officials calling for the re-establishment of illegal settlements in the Gaza Strip and the displacement of the Palestinian population living there.

Israel liquidated its settlements in Gaza when it pulled the army out of the strip in 2005.

In recent days, various Israeli ministers, including Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, have made public speeches calling for the re-establishment of settlements in Gaza and the expulsion of Palestinians from the strip.

16:30 Participating in the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) advisory opinion on Israeli violations in Palestine on Wednesday, Egypt said that under Israeli occupation, Palestinians have had to endure forced displacement, collective punishment, indiscriminate violence, and daily human suffering of untold proportions for 75 years.

Yasmine Moussa, legal advisor in the office of Egypt's foreign minister, made the statement on behalf of Egypt’s delegation.

Egypt’s representative said Israel seeks through its annexation policies to change the demographics of the occupied Palestinian territories and impose sovereignty over them.

The advisory opinion, which includes 52 states and three international organizations, was requested by the United Nations General Assembly from the ICJ in 2022 regarding the legal consequences of the Israeli policies and practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem.

Moussa said over 29,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed and some 2.3 million forcibly displaced by Israel in violation of international law, noting that Israel deliberately seeks to make life in Gaza impossible by imposing siege and starvation and obstructing humanitarian aid to the strip.

Moussa said that by announcing an impending attack on Rafah, where 1.4 million have sought refuge, Israel is continuing its policies of forcible expulsion of Palestinian civilians at a time when the UN Security Council has repeatedly failed to call for a ceasefire.

A Palestinian looks at the destruction after an Israeli strike on a residential building in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, 21 Feb. 2024.  AP

Moussa underlined Israel’s illegal policies in the West Bank, where it is escalating attacks, demolishing Palestinians' homes, and supporting settlers' violence.

"Increased settlement activity continues to erode the basis of a two-state solution, dimming prospects of a lasting peace in the region," she asserted.

These Israeli policies, she added, are part of a broader plan to uproot Palestinians from their land.

She affirmed the jurisdiction of the ICJ to hear the advisory opinion as per the UN Charter since the hearings will address the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

"It is shocking that at this critical moment, some states would rather see this court abscond responsibility as the principal judicial organ of the UN by declining to render this advisory opinion," she added.

"What message does this send about these states’ respect for international justice and the rule of law?" Moussa said.

15:00 Israel's parliament voted overwhelmingly to back Prime Minister Netanyahu's government statement opposing the "unilateral" creation of a Palestinian state. 

"I don't remember many votes in which the Knesset voted by a majority of 99 out of 120. The Knesset united with a huge majority against the attempt to dictate to us the establishment of a Palestinian state. The vote sends a clear message to the international community," Netanyahu told the Knesset after the declaration passed.

14:00 An Israeli airstrike on south Lebanon killed a woman and wounded her daughter, state media said, while a hospital source told AFP a young girl had also died.

Lebanon's Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire across the border since the war on Gaza broke out on 7 October.

The cross-border exchanges since October have killed at least 271 people on the Lebanese side, most of whom are Hezbollah fighters but also including 42 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

Hezbollah said Wednesday it had carried out several attacks on Israeli troops and positions.

13:30 Richard Visek, US representative at The Hague, urged the ICJ to preserve and promote the established framework for reaching a two-state solution.

“The United States, along with others, is engaging intensively with the Palestinians and with Israel, and with other states in the region and within the United Nations, not only to address the current crisis but to get beyond where we have, namely, to advance a political settlement that will lead to a durable peace in the region that includes lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians and a path to Palestinian statehood,” the US representative said.

“The United States encourages the court to ensure that its opinion preserves and promotes the established framework and the prerogatives of the principal political organs of the United Nations to identify the appropriate measures to address this particular matter of international peace and security,” he added.

However, the US urged the court not to “find that Israel is legally obligated to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from the occupied territory," saying that “the court should not offer an advisory opinion because the case before it is one-sided against Israel – the country has declined to take part directly in the proceedings although it has made a written submission – and that the security council and general assembly of the UN have an established framework and the matter is in hand.”

He also argued that an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories requires “the termination of belligerency” and “the mutual recognition and respect for the rights of Israel and every other state in the region to live in peace.”

The UAE representative Lana Nusseibeh accused Israel of practising collective punishment against the Palestinians, which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, noting that Israel’s violations in the West Bank are also increasing, which contradicts the rights of the Palestinians to decide their fate.

13:15  As many as 24 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip on Wednesday through the Rafah border crossing, Egypt's official news agency MENA reported.

An official source at the crossing said the convoy consisted of four fuel trucks and 20 aid trucks.

The source added that the trucks are handed over to the UNRWA and the Palestinian Red Crescent.

12:50 Doctors Without Borders said that two people were killed when a shelter housing staff in Gaza was struck during an Israeli operation in the Muwasi area, where Palestinians have been told to seek shelter.

“While details are still emerging, ambulance crews have now reached the site, where at least two family members of our colleagues have been killed and six people wounded. We are horrified by what has occurred," the group said in a post on X.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said its crews evacuated 21 wounded people from the Nasser Medical Complex in the city of Khan Younis after it was put out of service, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Earlier, Israeli warplanes bombed the vicinity of the Nasser complex, resulting in the injury of several people and causing massive destruction to the nearby buildings.

12:45 An Israeli official told the Times of Israel that no decision has been made yet to send a delegation to Cairo for further talks on a captive deal.

The official said that Israel is being “cautious” and is waiting for proof that Hamas' positions have softened before sending negotiators.

The Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported earlier that an Israeli delegation would be in Cairo within hours.

12:30 China warned that a US decision to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza pushed the conflict into an "even more dangerous" situation.

"China voted in favour of the draft resolution," Mao Ning, foreign ministry spokesperson, told a regular briefing on Wednesday.

"The United States has once again single-handedly vetoed it, pushing the situation in Gaza into an even more dangerous situation, in which all parties concerned ... have expressed their strong disappointment and dissatisfaction," she added.

12:15 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is sitting for the third day to hear arguments in the case of the legal implications of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

Egypt is now addressing the stand at the ICJ, which has been asked to provide a non-binding "advisory opinion" on the legal implications of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

“It is shocking that at this critical moment, some states would rather see this court abscond responsibility as the principal judicial organ of the UN by declining to render this advisory opinion,” Egypt's representative and legal advisor in the office of Egypt's Foreign Minister, Yasmine Moussa, said.

Yesterday, South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Belgium spoke in the morning session; Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile spoke in the afternoon. The hearings are scheduled for six days, with an unprecedented scheduled participation of 52 countries.

On Tuesday, South Africa's legal team accused Israel of applying an even more extreme version of apartheid in the Palestinian territories than experienced in South Africa before 1994.

"It is clear that Israel's illegal occupation is also being administered in breach of the crime of apartheid ... It is indistinguishable from settler colonialism. Israel's apartheid must end," said Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, where the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is based.

Ziad Al-Atiyah, ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the Netherlands, told the court that the heavy civilian death toll in Gaza is a consequence of "twisted logic" and decades of illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.

"I believe I speak in consonance with virtually the entire international community in expressing the kingdom’s profound revulsion and condemnation of the horrendous death, destruction, and displacement of Palestinian civilians brought about by Israel’s illegal and brutal war," Al-Atiyah told the court's 15 judges.

11:30 The Palestinian Prisoners' Affairs Authority and the Prisoners' Club announced the death of prisoner Khaled Al-Shawish in an Israeli jail.

The Israeli forces detained Al-Shawish on 28 May 2007 and sentenced him to life imprisonment 11 times.

Before his detention, Al-Shawish, from Tubas in the occupied West Bank, was seriously injured by occupation fire in 2001.

Since the date of his arrest until today, Al-Shawish has faced chronic health conditions that resulted mainly from being shot.

On Monday, UN experts voiced grave concern about the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls, including human rights defenders, journalists, and humanitarian workers, in Gaza and the West Bank since the start of the war on 7 October.

Many of the detainees have reportedly been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, denied menstruation pads, food, and medicine, and severely beaten, they said. Furthermore, on at least one occasion, Palestinian women detained in Gaza were allegedly kept in a cage in the rain and cold, without food.

Israel has arrested more than 7000 Palestinians from the West Bank since the war on Gaza erupted.

10:30 An Israeli delegation is set to arrive in Cairo in the coming hours amid renewed hopes for a temporary ceasefire and a captive deal, Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported.

According to the newspaper, “There is progress in Egypt’s discussions with Hamas regarding the deal. Hamas has softened its positions, and Egypt is working to achieve similar flexibility with the Israeli delegation.”

There is no immediate comment from the Israeli government on the report.

On Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo after negotiations for a potential ceasefire and a captive deal, mediated by the US, Qatar, and Egypt officials, had stalled.

09:30 Israel struck a residential area of Damascus, Syrian official media reported.

"An Israeli attack with several missiles targets the Kafr Sousa residential neighbourhood in the capital Damascus," Syria's state TV said, without immediately providing further details.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights then reported that at least two have died in Israeli strikes on the Syrian capital.

The district is home to several security and military headquarters.

State news agency SANA published images of the aftermath of the attack, showing the outside of a multi-story building partially blackened and windows blown out, with a fire visible in one apartment that appeared to have been targeted.

Egypt expressed its deep regret and rejection over the repeated failure of the UNSC to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, describing it as a shameful precedent in the Security Council's history of handling armed conflicts and wars.

Adding to Gaza's woes, the UN's food agency stopped desperately needed deliveries to the north of the territory after facing complete chaos and violence there.

 Israeli strikes pounded Gaza early Wednesday as fighting on the ground raged on, leaving 103 people dead, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Negotiation efforts have failed to secure a long-term truce, and despite international pressure, Israel has insisted that a ground operation in Rafah is essential.

Leaders of global humanitarian groups said a ground offensive could turn Rafah into a "graveyard," warning of the "truly unimaginable" consequences of a full-scale assault.

Israel has said that unless all the captives are freed by the start of Ramadan on 10 or 11 March, it will push on with its offensive during the Muslim holy month, including in Rafah.

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