Credit: Courtesy of Palestinian Red Crescent Society

 

THE HAGUE, 29 February 2024 – Nearly five months into its military offensive in Gaza, the Israeli government and its military continue to fail to sufficiently prevent civilian harm and reduce human suffering, warns Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC). CIVIC condemns Israel’s continued disregard for international law in its operations in Gaza, including apparent indiscriminate attacks in populated areas and restrictions on humanitarian aid, and reiterates its call for an immediate ceasefire. 

Since October 7, 2023, over 30,000 people have been killed, and many more are likely buried under the rubble across Gaza. Hospitals continued to be targeted. A few days ago, Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip’s second-largest hospital, was reported “completely out of service” after a week-long siege by Israeli forces.  

Now, approximately 1.5 million Palestinian civilians face further devastation and destruction in Rafah, southern Gaza. 

Civilians in Gaza have no safe place to go  

In recent days, the Israeli military expanded its strikes to Rafah where more than two-thirds of Gaza’s population have taken refuge as a last resort. Israel has announced its plan to launch a ground operation in Rafah in the coming days. Conducting a military operation in such a densely populated area would be a death sentence for civilians who have sheltered there.  

With nowhere safe for civilians to go, there is no way to humanely evacuate Rafah and Gaza has become ‘uninhabitable’ according to the UN. Since October 7, evacuations have not been protective; civilians have repeatedly been targeted during evacuations and in designated “safe zones.” Given the significant number of civilian casualties that may result from an offensive in Rafah, CIVIC calls on Israel to refrain from launching such a military operation. 

Humanitarian organizations are unable to cope 

On January 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to “take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian aid.” Over one month later, humanitarian organizations in Gaza continue to report the obstruction of the provision of basic services, including food, clean water, and medicine. The number of aid trucks entering Gaza has dropped by more than a third following the ICJ’s ruling compared to the weeks before.  

Hindering humanitarian access and depriving an entire population of adequate access to life-saving supplies amounts to collective punishment, a violation of international humanitarian law. 

A number of states including the United States have also announced the freezing of funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the largest provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza. CIVIC recognizes the severity of the allegations against some of UNRWA’s staff and supports a fair and comprehensive investigation into the matter. However, the organization has now reached a “breaking point” and its inability to operate would only deepen the deprivation faced by more than 2 million civilians in Gaza. CIVIC and over 50 organizations have called on the U.S. to immediately restore funding to UNRWA. 

The U.S. must use its leverage to stop civilian suffering  

The U.S. is Israel’s closest ally and provider of billions of dollars of security assistance annually. US security assistance has enabled catastrophic civilian harm in Gaza in a way that appears to violate existing US law and policy. The U.S. has publicly pressed Israel on civilian protection; however, without using its leverage by conditioning aid, these messages will continue to be ignored. CIVIC calls on the U.S. to urgently leverage security assistance to push for civilian protection, de-escalation, and an immediate ceasefire.  

Last month, CIVIC and international partners called for a halt of arms transfers to Israel in light of risks that weapons will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international law. 

CIVIC urges all parties to the conflict to uphold their legal obligations to protect civilians and abide by rulings issued by international institutions. This also includes Palestinian armed groups to stop to firing indiscriminately into Israel and to release civilian hostages. 

Third parties, primarily those who provide military and security support to warring parties, are also obligated to uphold international law and must abstain from actions that may contribute to further harm to civilians.  

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:    

Hajer Naili, Director of Communications, hnaili@civiliansinconflict.org, +31.6.21.69.68.86 / +1 917 889 5982 (WhatsApp)    

       Spokespersons available for interviews in English and French  

                Spokespersons available for interviews in English and French  

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