Geneva – A survivor of an air strike during Israel's military attack on the Gaza Strip in May 2021 has called on the international community at the United Nations Human Rights Council to put an end to Israel's enjoyment of impunity and to bring justice to the victims.
Zainab Shukri Al-Qolaq, whose home was bombed by Israeli warplanes and who remained under the rubble for 12 hours before being rescued, said that the airstrike killed 22 members of her family, including her mother and three siblings. She called on HRC to explain what progress has been made by the investigation committee that was formed after the Israeli attack, as hundreds of victims are waiting to see those who committed grave violations against them held accountable.
Giving the speech on behalf of Euro-Med Monitor during general debate under agenda item 7 at the 49th session of HRC, Al-Qolaq said: "I know my loss is too great to be compensated. But my mother, my sister, my brother, and my family will rest in peace only when the perpetrators are held accountable.”
"I want to know the progress has been achieved by the commission of inquiry that you formed after the Israeli attack. Was it able to identify those responsible for wiping off my family? Will real actions be taken to prevent similar tragedies?"
Al-Qolaq expressed her fear of losing more of her family, saying: "I am now 22, and I have lost 22 people. Will I lose more when my next birthday comes before the international community takes tangible steps to bring me justice?"
On 16 May 2021, Israeli warplanes used heavy bombs to target the residential building where Al-Qolaq and her family lived, on Al-Wehda Street, west of Gaza City. The building was completely destroyed; 42 civilians were killed, including 16 women and ten children. Fifty others were injured.
Following the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip in May 2021, Euro-Med Monitor released a series of reports—including Inescapable Hell, Left in Tatters, and One War Older. Through field research, interviews with victims, and analysis, these reports document the results of the direct targeting of civilians—especially their psychological effects on vulnerable groups, such as women and children. The reports present a comprehensive review of the losses inflicted on the economic sector and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
The reports also provide analyses on the attack and its effects from a legal point of view, confirming that what Israel did may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community should activate accountability tools to hold Israel accountable for its grave human rights violations.
Al-Qolaq has recently joined Euro-Med Monitor's Training-Mentorship Production program that aims to integrate young people living in conflict areas in human rights and humanitarian work. It encourages them to use the skills and communications necessary to employ human rights defense mechanisms.
My name is Zainab. I'm a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip. And by some miracle, I am still alive to speak to you today after the Israeli forces bombed my home during Israel's attack on Gaza in May 2021. I was badly wounded and remained under the rubble for 12 hours before I was pulled out.
After I woke up to the shock of losing 22 members of my family. Life and death became a life to me. The bombing killed my mother, Amal, my sister Hannah, my brothers Ahmed and Taher, and my cousins and many other relatives I cannot name because I feel real pain in my chest, recalling this memory.
All the houses in our neighborhood were flattened, although not a single armed person was among us, and no military actions were carried out from our area. We were a group of defenseless people, anxiously hearing the sounds of shelling carried death with them.
I know that my loss is too great to be compensated, but my mother, my sister, my brothers, my family will rest in peace only when the perpetrators are held accountable.
Mr. President, I want to know what progress has been achieved by the Commission of inquiry that you formed after the Israeli attack. Was it able to identify those responsible for wiping off my family? Will actions be taken to prevent similar tragedies?
I'm now 22 and I've lost 22 people. Will I lose more when my next birthday comes before the international community takes tangible steps to bring me justice?