International media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have called on the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, to include the bombing of 20 media outlets in the Gaza Strip, Palestine, in her investigation into the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The organization reported that targeted Israeli airstrikes have destroyed more than 20 Palestinian and international media outlet premises in the last week, including the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.
The Israeli military has said the attacks were justified because Hamas (the ‘military intelligence wing of Hezbollah’) had stationed equipment and weapons in the buildings in question.
Christopher Deloire, the Secretary-General of RSF, said that “deliberately targeting media outlets constitutes a war crime.”
“By intentionally destroying media outlets, the Israel Defence Forces are not only inflicting unacceptable material damage on news operations. They are also, more broadly, obstructing media coverage of a conflict that directly affects the civilian population. We call on the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor to determine whether these airstrikes constitute war crimes.”
The first attack on a media outlet took place on the morning of May 12 when Israel destroyed the Al-Jawhara Tower, a building that is home to 14 media outlets including Palestine Daily News and Al-Araby.
For almost two weeks, the situation in Palestine and Israel has been escalating. United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet called for de-escalation in tensions and for both sides to respect international law.
“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,” she said in a statement.
She added that both sides could find themselves implicated in war crimes and carrying out actions against non-military objectives.
“I urge both sides to ensure strict respect for their obligations under international law. Israel, as the occupying power, also has a duty to ensure unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip,” the UN rights chief said. “Those found to be responsible for violations must be held to account.”
In a high-level UN Security-Council meeting held yesterday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the hostilities as “utterly appalling.” He added that the violence puts at risk any possibility of a future solution and will have devastating and far-reaching consequences.
“The fighting risks dragging Israelis and Palestinians into a spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region,” he said.
“It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel but in the region as a whole, potentially creating a new locus of dangerous instability,” Guterres added.
He said the only option is to consider returning to a two-State solution, but that regardless, the “senseless cycle of bloodshed, terror, and destruction must stop immediately.”
On Saturday, UNICEF Palestine reported that eight children were killed overnight in Gaza, bringing the total to 40. In Israel, two children were reported to have lost their lives.
Protests have taken place around the world over the last week. In Tirana, a pro-Palestinian protest organized in Skanderbeg Square on May 16 was forcibly dispersed by police under the auspices of anti-COVID-19 measures. Gatherings of more than 10 people are currently banned but this rule has not always been applied to political rallies and gatherings.