Trócaire welcomes the four-day pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas that comes into effect today.
The temporary truce will hopefully allow for limited humanitarian aid to reach those desperately in need of food, water, and medical assistance, and the release of hostages and those arbitrarily detained will allow them to be reunited with their families.
However, a pause is not enough. We encourage all parties involved to ensure that the fighting does not resume after four days, that the temporary truce is extended, and a permanent ceasefire is brokered to bring an end to the hostilities that have seen thousands of Palestinian and Israeli civilian lives lost, the majority of them women and children.
Before the escalation of violence last month, the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip faced acute humanitarian needs, with more than 80% of the population dependent on some form of humanitarian assistance. Today, 1.7 million of the 2.2 million residents of the Gaza Strip are internally displaced, in an area that is half the size of County Louth.
Humanitarian access and assistance cannot be conditioned. It must reach those that need it most, wherever they are located.
Israel must allow in the basic but necessary items to ensure that residents of the Gaza Strip can survive, many of whom are now at risk of starvation and disease. The delivery of sufficient levels of fuel must be also be allowed in – this is critical for ensuring that aid can be delivered throughout the Gaza Strip, that hospitals can function and protect vulnerable patients and new-borns, that water and sanitation services can be delivered, and that internally displaced people can communicate with their loved ones. The remaining hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be released and returned to their families.
The UN, along with international and local NGOs, can all play a role in ensuring the delivery of humanitarian assistance reaches those most in need in the days ahead. However, they must be allowed to move and operate freely, both during the temporary truce and after. Many of Trócaire’s local partner organisations in the Gaza Strip have been unable to operate in recent weeks, and they have suffered their own horrendous ordeals through displacement and loss of friends and families. When they are able to do so, they must be allowed to return to delivering lifesaving medical care, psychosocial support and legal assistance to the people of the Gaza strip.
The truce should also allow for reflection by all parties, including the international community in terms of their response over the last number of weeks. International humanitarian and human rights law and associated conventions were developed to help duty bearers ensure that in times of war and peace civilians and the most vulnerable are protected. In this sense, there has been a collective failing of the international community to fulfil their responsibilities, not just in recent weeks, but in the years and decades before.
Trócaire wants peace amongst Palestinians and Israelis. We want that peace to be based on mutual respect and understanding, with security, justice and equality for all. Decades of military occupation and 16 years of a blockade of the Gaza Strip, along with the systematic discrimination and oppression that Palestinians endure daily, have continued to erode the possibilities for this to be achieved. There is a compelling need to address these root causes urgently and comprehensively, and it is incumbent on the international community to take immediate steps to this end.