The ceasefire in Gaza is welcomed by We World, but we must NOW continuously ensure that all parties strictly adhere to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), including the principles of distinction, proportionality and the taking of precautions in attack.
According to We World CEO Dina Taddia, “In Gaza the population lives on the edge, suffering from 14 years of blockade, with around 50% of the population unemployed, in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, depending on international aid for access to basic needs as water, food, electricity, education. Some of our colleagues in the Strip have been displaced with their families but they are currently safe. While we welcome the ceasefire, the International Community must act to avoid that such hostilities may start again, to protect children, women, elders and thousands of innocent, displaced civilians who lost their houses, and push for the respect and implementation of the International Humanitarian Law in Palestine and Israel”
We must not forget that since the 10th of May 2021, the Gaza Strip has witnessed intense hostilities, with an enormous volume of ordinance fired by Israel and Palestinian armed groups. These events mirror previous large-scale military operations conducted by Israel in the Gaza Strip in 2009, 2012/13 and 2014, in which large numbers of Palestinian civilians were killed and civilian infrastructure destroyed on a vast scale. Since the 10th of May, 230 persons were killed in the Gaza Strip, including 65 children and 38 women, and 1.760 were injured, including 540 children and 361 women. According to the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, 258 buildings, comprising 1.042 housing and commercial units, have been destroyed. 769 housing units suffered major damages and are uninhabitable, according to the Shelter Cluster. Additional 14.536 housing units have sustained minor damages.
We must not forget that this latest outbreak of hostilities can be traced back to violence which began in East Jerusalem, and subsequently extended throughout the rest of the West Bank, as well as into Israel. Since the 10th of May, 27 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and a further 6.370 injured (85 children, 8 women). 4 out of 25 fatalities were children, and one woman. According to OHCHR, the opening of fire by Israeli forces in the last days raises concerns of excessive use of force, as well as during the planned forced eviction of 970 Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, restrictions on Palestinian movement, a sharp increase in Israeli settler violence, and other serious violations. As per Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Regulations (as well as international human rights law which binds Israel extraterritorially in its conduct in the oPt) Israel, as the Occupying Power, is responsible for the safety and security of the occupied Palestinian population and must do its utmost to prevent violence, and hold perpetrators to account regardless of their identity.
As noted days ago by United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, “The current violence in Gaza & Israel only perpetuates the cycles of death, destruction & despair, and pushes farther to the horizon any hopes of coexistence & peace”.
We World calls on the International Community to ensure that the ceasefire not only holds, but that the situation does not revert to the conduct of military operations. The ceasefire is a welcomed first step, but the entry of fuel and emergency humanitarian aid must be guaranteed with the utmost urgency, together with ensuring full, safe and unimpeded access of critical humanitarian personnel and support.
To deliver Palestinians and Israelis from the longstanding cycle of violence and suffering, the leaders of Europe, US, the Arab world and elsewhere must back just and durable solutions, based on the fundamental principles of International Law, that could finally lift the population from an endless cycle of suffering.
Such measures are what marks the difference between going back to a “normality” characterized by land closure, coupled with maritime and air blockade affecting the lives of 2 million Gazans, and a new reality where their safety and dignity are guaranteed, preserved and protected.
All Leaders must not forget that 50 education facilities have been seriously affected in Gaza. This includes 45 schools, 2 Kindergartens, 1 vocational center, 1 university and a Ministry of Education directorate building. Reports indicate that a number of these schools were directly hit by airstrikes or tank shells.
All Leaders must not forget that all schools in Gaza are closed. This is impeding 591,685 (51% girls) school age children from accessing education. A further 21,300 education staff are also affected. The Education Cluster assumes that education will not be provided for a long period, neither in person nor through distance learning, since families are overwhelmed with different, competing needs and many areas of Gaza are facing electricity and internet cuts.
All Leaders must not forget that in addition to the mentioned excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces, there has been a concerning increase in settler attacks in the West Bank. At least 51 incidents of settler violence have been recorded in 29 Palestinian communities in the West Bank. These attacks include instances of physical assault and harassment, damage to or destruction of homes, schools, agricultural lands, livelihood structures and vehicles. The West Bank had already witnessed a sharp increase in settler violence since late 2020. As of the 19th of May, UN OCHA recorded 394 incidents of settler violence in 2021, representing a 47% increase compared to the same period in 2020.
Under IHL, Israel as the Occupying Power is obligated to ensure public order and the wellbeing of the occupied civilian population. This includes a duty to protect Palestinians from instances of settler violence, and to promptly and effectively investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of such attacks.
We now need all Leaders to genuinely support Palestinian and Israel to end all grave violations of IHL and the unsustainable injustice that is affecting the lives and dignity of women, men, girls, boys and children.
Francesco Michele – International Advocacy, Policy and Innovation Area Coordinator
Andrea Comollo – Director of Communication