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  • 23 Jun, 2024

The Safe Zone: Israel's Genocide Technique

By establishing a safe zone in Gaza, the Israeli military can execute and deny war crimes more effectively.

by Nicholas Perugini
Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Edinburgh



On October 13, the Israeli military ordered the 1.1 million Palestinians living in the northern Gaza Strip to leave their homes, saying "This evacuation is for your safety."

Thousands heeded the warning and headed south, only to be bombed en route and upon arrival.

The mass evacuation order only exposes a series of announcements and legal techniques developed by the Israeli military and legal team to orchestrate and cover up violence against the Palestinian people under the vague narrative of international humanitarian precautions. Israel's deadly "humanitarian effort".

In November last year, immediately after the launch of the ground offensive, the Israeli army designated Salah al-Din Street, the north-south route in the Gaza Strip, as a "safe passage". The occupation force shared a map showing evacuation routes, underlining its "humanitarian efforts" to protect civilians.

But since then, Gaza's main thoroughfare has become a channel of terror where Palestinians are bombed, executed, arbitrarily forced to disappear, tortured and humiliated.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military has continued to bomb the southern part of the Gaza Strip and has repeatedly declared a "safe zone" where Palestinians in the north can seek safety. In late November, when the war's death toll reached 15,000 (most of them civilians in "safe zones"), the US government supported Israel's indiscriminate attacks on civilians with cosmetic appeals to so-called "safe zones".

I tried to mask this. "Area." In the "extended" zone the Israeli military responded by introducing a new "humanitarian tool": the evacuation grid system. He posted a grid map on social media that divides Gaza into 600 blocks and shows which areas should be "evacuated" and which are "safe".

Far from increasing the safe zone for civilians, the systems deployed by the Israeli military while blocking all forms of communication in Gaza have increased chaos and death. Areas previously considered safe, including Khan Younis and Rafah, have become urban battlegrounds.

In response, Israel ordered Palestinian civilians in the area to leave for a new safe zone. However, the areas where the evacuation schedule indicates that Palestinians should flee were immediately targeted by the Israeli military.

Last December, a New York Times investigation found that during the first month and a half of the war, Israel "regularly used one of the largest and most destructive bombs in areas deemed safe for civilians." The 2,000-pound US bomb dropped on the safe zone "threatened civilians everywhere seeking safety in southern Gaza."

However, the Biden administration has repeatedly praised Israel's "efforts" to protect civilians. the genocidal band

Under international law, the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols require the recognition of safe zones in agreements between parties to the conflict. However, this rarely happens in conflict situations, and safe zones and their associated legal techniques can become tools for organizing violence.

Concentrations of defenseless civilians in defensible, mapped areas can and will be used by battlefield actors to command and use lethal force.

This happened in Srebrenica, Bosnia's infamous "safe zone". The zone was established by the United Nations in 1993 to protect Bosnian Muslims under attack, but the demilitarization of the safe zone made it easy prey for Serb forces.

They first disrupted the delivery of humanitarian aid to the area and then arrested and massacred thousands of peaceful Muslims. And in the case of Sri Lanka, safe zones proved fatal. In Sri Lanka, the government created a Tamil security zone that killed thousands of civilians and accused the Tamil Tigers of exploiting refugees who had settled in the area. "Human Shield".
Likewise, in the Gaza Strip, Israel unilaterally dictates what is "safe" for Palestinian citizens. Through this, security discourse and associated legal techniques such as warnings, safe zones, safe corridors, and evacuation programs are used as lethal tools to carry out ethnic cleansing of various parts of the designated safe/unsafe zones.

Areas or parts of areas designated as safe are used to concentrate displaced persons and to manage military operations and civilian killings more effectively. From a scathing Reuters article: "Israel tells Gazans to run, bombing where they are sent."

In other words, as soon as Israel issued an evacuation order and designated a "safe zone" through large-scale settlement in the Gaza Strip, it concentrated the ethnically cleansed population in the reduction zone. This indicates a clear intention to exterminate Palestinian civilians after the expulsion and could be a tool to make the extermination more effective.

In congested areas like Rafah, which is densely populated due to the influx of refugees from the northern and central Gaza Strip, more than one person can be killed in a single attack. Besides serving an explicit military purpose, the necropolitical usurpation of the humanitarian obligation to warn civilians and create safe spaces is part of Israel's legal strategy to defend itself against accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israel's claim of genocide was further strengthened by South Africa's recent genocide petition at the International Court of Justice. The petition accuses Israel of taking actions aimed at "erasing significant segments of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnic groups."

The government tries to present itself as an upholder of international law. Israel has always sought to legitimize its 75 years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession. But this time, the genocidal destruction unleashed in this country has reached an unprecedented scale, putting 2.3 million people in real danger of death.

And the legal discourse about security completely ignores the civil status of the people of Gaza.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the editorial position of Voice of Urdu.