by JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Commissioner Yusoph J. Mando on Tuesday lambasted Israel’s “flagrant violations” of Palestinian rights and called on the international community to act urgently to put an end to military operations.
In an exclusive interview with the Philippine Muslim Today, Commissioner Mando condemned what he called the violation of the sanctity of Masjid Al Aqsa, Islam’s 3rd holiest site, by “forcible” eviction of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.
He emphasized that he is also deeply disturbed by the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City housing offices of several international media organizations and residential apartments, and is dismayed by the increasing number of civilian casualties.
Mando reminds all sides that any indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures violates international law and must be avoided at all costs.
Earlier Saturday, an Israeli airstrike pulverized a high-rise building that housed the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outfits after warning that the Israel Defense Forces was going to target the said building.
He said the NCMF as a government agency that caters to the welfare of Muslim Filipinos and the rest of the Muslim Ummah (communities) throughout the world is calling for an end to the violence, which has seen more than 200 Palestinians killed along with six Israelis since Monday.
Mando also said according to news reports of wire agencies, there is a felt need “to protect the lives of civilians that are now dying in totally unacceptable circumstances.”
“We are very concerned by the growing civilian casualties in both Gaza and Israel and deeply saddened by reported deaths of children in Gaza,” said Commissioner Mando, adding he believes that “Israeli Forces and other militants’ indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards highly populated civilian neighborhoods violates international humanitarian law, and it is unacceptable and has to stop immediately.”
It can be recalled that the clashes all began at the start of Ramadan, when Israeli police placed barriers outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, a popular gathering place after the evening prayers during the holy month when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
The Commissioner said that the Israeli authorities must “abide by their responsibilities under international law and that Israeli security forces should exercise maximum restraint, calibrate their use of force to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations.”
It can be noted that Palestine, is recognized officially as the State of Palestine by the United Nations and other entities, is a de jure sovereign state in Western Asia claiming the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as the designated capital, although its administrative center is currently located in Ramallah.
Commissioner Mando added the NCMF is “particularly appalled that children continue to be victims of violence”, adding that youngsters needed to be given special protection.
“I am calling on the international community to take action to enable the parties to step back from the brink and return to the previous understandings that have maintained a relative calm in Gaza and avoid a descent into chaos, with the massive casualties and immense damage to civilian infrastructure that would result,” added the NCMF Commissioner.
He reminded that it is the civilian population on both sides, that bears the burden of war and that the most vulnerable are the ones at greatest risk of suffering.
“The situation is at a dangerous tipping point. The level of violence and its impact on children is devastating. We are on the brink of a full-scale war. In any war, children – all children – suffer first and suffer most.”
He urged all sides to “protect all civilians, especially children, to spare essential civilian infrastructure from attacks, and to end violations against children.” JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL