The state of Israel is violating international humanitarian law, according to a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The organisation has accused Israel of "general disregard" for "its obligations under international humanitarian law - and the law of occupation in particular," to serve its own interests.
The ICRC report leaked to the media condemns Israel's usage of its role as an occupying power "in order to further its own interests or those of its own population to the detriment of the population of the occupied territory," which it says is "foreign to the letter and spirit of occupation law."
The committee said the Israeli policy has far-reaching humanitarian consequences for Palestinians living under occupation in East Jerusalem, including isolation of Palestinians living in Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, problems of access to basic services and a "condition of artificial illegality," in which thousands of Palestinians live in Jerusalem without ability to obtain permanent residency.
Israel is creating "a Greater Jerusalem Envelope" by constructing the separation barrier, establishing an outer ring of Jewish settlements beyond expanded municipal boundaries and creating a dense road network linking Israeli neighborhoods and settlements in and outside Jerusalem, the report said.
ICRC, recognized in the Geneva Convention of 1949 as a guardian of international humanitarian law, delivered its report in late February "to Israel and to a small number of foreign governments we believe would be in the best position to help support our efforts for the implementation of humanitarian law," said Bernard Barrett, an ICRC spokesman in Jerusalem.
Mustafa Barghouti, spokesman for the Palestinian unity government, welcomed the report, calling it consistent with previous rulings of the International Court of Justice. In 2004 the court ruled that Israel's separation barrier is illegal where it crosses 1967 lines into occupied territory. "Israel violates international law with impunity and couldn't continue this blunt violation for 40 years, if it did not feel impunity toward the international community," Barghouti said.
Barghouti said that the U.S. and European Union ambassadors boycotted ceremonies in the run-up to Israel's Jerusalem Day on Wednesday, arguing that the status of the city should be determined by negotiations with the Palestinian. Barghouti said this "proves that the world does not recognize the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem."
Israel disagreed with the report’s premises and conclusions, claiming that Jerusalem is not occupied. "We reject the premise of the report that East Jerusalem is occupied territory," said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "It is not,” he said.
Israel seized East Jerusalem in 1967 then in 1981, annexed the area in a move not recognized by the international community. About 260,000 Jewish settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. The World Court has ruled that Israeli settlements are illegal. Moreover, settlement expansion and construction in the Occupied West Bank violate a U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan known as the "road map," which calls for an independent state for the Palestinians.
Information compiled from various media reports