Years of impunity for Israeli crimes against civilians have bred a culture of disregard for international law.

By Alice Speri, The Intercept

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant used genocidal language and ordered mass war crimes in the occupied Gaza Strip on Monday in response to Hamas’s weekend assault and massacre of Israeli civilians, setting the stage for a large-scale escalation of the violence that has already led to the killing of at least 800 Israelis and more than 500 Palestinians.

gaza bombed

Gallant said that he had ordered “a complete siege of the Gaza Strip,” which is home to 2.2 million Palestinians, nearly half of them children. “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” he said. “We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly.”

What Gallant ordered — the collective punishment of a civilian population — amounts to a war crime under international law, as well as potentially a crime against humanity and the crime of genocide, some international law experts have pointed out. Hamas’s massacre of civilians and taking of at least 150 hostages, whom it has reportedly threatened to execute in response to the targeting of civilians in Gaza, are also war crimes.

Hamas and Israel’s crimes against civilians, which are likely to escalate in the coming days, come after years of impunity for Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. The historical lack of accountability has bred a culture of disregard for international law that directly resulted in the weekend’s violence, human rights advocates say.

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