Statement: International Humanitarian Law must be upheld in Gaza
It has now been two weeks in which the world has witnessed repeated violence and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in Gaza that have challenged the principle of humanity, as a response to the deeply shocking and unprecedented Hamas attack on civilians in southern Israel.
It has now been two weeks in which the world has witnessed repeated violence and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in Gaza that have challenged the principle of humanity, as a response to the deeply shocking and unprecedented Hamas attack on civilians in southern Israel
Currently over 4,000 people in Gaza have been killed, with 70% of them being women and children – in Gaza these numbers are rising every day. Over 1,400 people lost their lives in Israel. More people have already been killed in Gaza in two weeks than during the entire 2014 hostilities which spanned six weeks, and the people of Gaza have nowhere to go as a result of the Israeli blockade. When there are daily airstrikes on Gaza, there is simply no safe haven for civilians, Gaza being the most densely populated area in the world, which increases the risk for civilian lives to be lost.
As an occupying power of the Palestinian Territory, Israel has a responsibility under IHL to ensure civilians have access to the essentials to survive. Yet, civilians have paid the price, not just as a consequence of air strikes, but through the intentional cutting off of electricity and water networks, and the closure of crossing points that has meant food, medicines, and fuel – imperative for the water network to function – have been blocked from entering. This comes after a blockade of the Gaza Strip that has lasted for 16 years and amounts to collective punishment prohibited under international law.
As an agency that responds to civilians affected by conflict all over the world, including across the Middle East, the Danish Refugee Council knows that upholding IHL is crucial. Civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) and Israel must be protected from violence in accordance with international law – there is nothing that justifies its violation. Instead, for two weeks’ civilians have repeatedly seen their rights violated.
While we welcome the fact that some humanitarian assistance has entered Gaza, this is far from enough to end this unnecessary humanitarian suffering. The international community has a responsibility to uphold international law – there must be an immediate ceasefire, there must be unhindered humanitarian access, and there must be accountability for IHL violations committed by all parties to the conflict. If action is not taken now, what will happen the next time a conflict is fought?
Charlotte Slente, Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council said, “We stand with the civilians of Gaza who have nowhere to go. More innocent lives will be lost if the international community does not take action to ensure a ceasefire now. The risk of the conflict escalating in the region is real, which would mean more innocent lives are lost. International Humanitarian Law must be upheld – it is not, and can never be, optional.”