Three Palestinian human rights organisations have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel, accusing it of war crimes including genocide by bombing and besieging Gaza.
Israel does not acknowledge the Hague-based court’s authority and is not a member of it. It has previously stated that charges of genocide are reprehensible and that its activities target militants of the Hamas group that administers Gaza, not civilians.
When asked for reaction, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson responded, “Israel is also collecting evidence for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Hamas during and after the Oct. 7 attack (on Israel) and afterwards, including the use of civilians as human shields (in Gaza).”
The three rights organisations, Al Haq, Al Mezan, and the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, said they had requested that the ICC focus on Israeli air strikes on densely populated civilian areas of Gaza, the siege of the region, and population displacement.
“These actions amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide and incitement to genocide,” they stated in a joint press release.
The ICC stated on Friday that it had received a communication from the three parties and will evaluate the information without going into specifics.
In response to a cross-border Hamas invasion on southern Israel on Oct. 7, gunmen killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and abducted approximately 240 prisoners, according to Israeli estimates.
According to Palestinian sources, Israel’s activities in Gaza have killed over 11,000 civilians.
In certain cases, particularly where crimes are alleged to have been committed on the territory of member states, the ICC has the authority to investigate nationals of non-member nations. The Palestinian territories are among the ICC’s members.
Escalating Palestinian death toll in Gaza
The United States expressed increased alarm on Friday about the escalating Palestinian death toll in Gaza, where health officials estimated the number of people killed in a five-week-old Israeli bombardment had surpassed 11,000 people.
Fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants erupted close and around Gaza City’s beleaguered and congested hospitals, which were struck by explosions and gunfire, according to Palestinian sources.
On the situation of people caught in the crossfire in Gaza, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters during a visit to India: “Far too many Palestinians have been killed; far too many have suffered these past weeks.”
Blinken praised the White House’s announcement of daily four-hour humanitarian Israeli pauses on Thursday, but said further action was required to protect Gaza’s population.
Israel has faced increasing calls for moderation in its month-long conflict with Hamas, but the Islamist militants, who stormed Israel on Oct. 7 and captured hostages, claim a truce would allow them to regroup.
“Israel is now launching a war on Gaza City hospitals,” Al Shifa hospital director Mohammad Abu Selmeyah warned.
He later stated that at least 25 people were murdered in Israeli airstrikes on the Al-Buraq school in Gaza City, where residents fleeing wrecked homes were refuge.
Palestinian militants in Gaza
According to Gaza officials, missiles landed in the courtyard of Al Shifa, the enclave’s largest hospital, in the early hours of the morning, damaging the Hospital and setting fire to the Nasser Rantissi paediatric cancer hospital.
The Israeli military later stated that Shifa was hit by a misfired rocket launched by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
The facilities are in northern Gaza, where Israel believes the Hamas militants who assaulted it last month are concentrated, and are full of displaced Palestinians as well as patients and physicians.
According to Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy, the Hamas headquarters are in the basement of Shifa hospital, which means the hospital might lose its protected status and become a valid target.
Israel claims that Hamas conceals weapons in tunnels beneath hospitals, which Hamas rejects.
Israeli tanks, which have been pushing into northern Gaza for nearly two weeks, have taken up positions near the Nasser Rantissi and Al-Quds hospitals, medical workers stated earlier, raising the concern.
According to Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, Ashraf Al-Qidra, Israel struck Shifa hospital facilities five times.
“One Palestinian was killed and several were wounded in the early morning attack,” added the official. Reuters-confirmed videos showed scenes of panic and individuals covered in blood.
According to Palestinian sources, 11,078 Gaza citizens have died in air and artillery assaults since October 7.
The Hamas onslaught
On Friday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry revised the earlier death toll of roughly 1,200 individuals, largely civilians, killed in the Hamas onslaught on Oct. 7, adding that the figure could alter again once all the remains are identified.
Israel has also stated that approximately 240 people were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, with 39 soldiers killed in battle since then.
According to the Palestinian Red Cross, Israeli forces were shooting at Al-Quds hospital, and there were violent battles, with one person dead and 28 others injured, the most of them were minors.
During an evening briefing, Israeli army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht stated that the army “does not fire on hospitals.” If we see Hamas terrorists firing from hospitals, we will take appropriate action. We understand the sensitivity of hospitals, but if we discover Hamas terrorists, we will kill them.”
The White House stated on Thursday that Israel agreed to halt military operations in portions of north Gaza for four hours per day, and the army said Palestinians were permitted to leave for more than seven hours down a road south on Friday, but there was no sign of a cease-fire.
According to Palestinians, an Israeli missile struck the road people were using to flee south, killing three people, according to Hamas-run television.
Over the last two days, more than 100,000 residents have fled south as Israeli forces operate “deep in Gaza City,” according to chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari.
However, evacuations from Gaza into Egypt for foreign passport holders and Palestinians in need of immediate medical attention were halted on Friday, according to reports. A Palestinian official and an Egyptian medical source blamed difficulty delivering medical evacuees from Gaza to the Rafah border crossing.
Tensions on Israel’s northern border.
On Friday, Hamas’ armed branch said it was continuing shooting rockets and shells into Israel and battling off forces in Gaza.
Sirens wailed in Tel Aviv and nearby areas, alerting residents of Hamas missile fire. Medics said two women in Tel Aviv had shrapnel wounds from a salvo.
Tensions have also risen along Israel’s northern border. The Israeli military said it bombed Hezbollah sites in Lebanon in response to aerial attacks that injured five troops the day before.
Even before the crisis, Gaza’s hospitals were struggling to keep up, with medical supplies, potable water, and fuel to power generators running low.
Many individuals escaped in the aftermath of the Shifa hospital blast. Ayman Al-Masri, who was wounded early in the fighting, told Reuters that he took refuge there 10 days ago with his mother and sister.
“We want a truce, we want a political solution.” Every day, tens of our children are slain,” he stated.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Gaza’s healthcare system has reached a “point of no return.”
According to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency, more than 100 United Nations employees have been murdered since the Israel-Hamas war began in Gaza, making it the worst battle for the UN in such a short period of time.