Trócaire has said that Ireland joining Spain, Belgium and Malta in urging EU leaders to call for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza is a welcome development. A letter jointly signed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the leaders of the other three countries is said to declare that Europe’s ‘credibility is at stake’ and that only a ceasefire will facilitate the entry into Gaza of the levels of humanitarian support needed.
Trócaire has been appalled by Israel’s renewed bombing campaign, which has intensified in the south of the Palestinian enclave around the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah. There is now nowhere in Gaza that is safe for civilians. Trócaire partner, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is struggling to safely provide life-saving assistance to people who have endured five days of continuous heavy bombardment since the humanitarian pause ended on 1st December.
Trócaire is still calling on the wider International Community to demand Israel and Hamas return to the negotiating table and push for a permanent ceasefire.
The failure of Israel to agree to, and unwillingness of some governments to achieve a ceasefire is unacceptable. The Elders, of which Mary Robinson is chair, has called for “governments providing military assistance to Israel to review their approach, and set conditions for any future provision. They warn that Israel’s renewed military campaign in Gaza risks fuelling an escalating cycle of mass atrocities.”
“States have a legal obligation to take steps to prevent atrocity crimes. If the world can watch this scale of brutality and suffering and not prevent it, we have lost our common humanity.”
Over 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza, more than 27,000 injured and 1.75 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.
Of those killed, about 41 per cent are children and 25 per cent are women. On average, one child is killed and two are injured every 10 minutes during the war, turning Gaza into a “graveyard for children,” according to the UN Secretary-General.
The temporary truce allowed for limited humanitarian aid to reach those desperately in need of food, water, and medical assistance. However, the short-lived pause was not enough.
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 also be allowed in – this is critical for ensuring that aid can be delivered throughout the Gaza Strip, that hospitals can function, 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 must 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. However, they must be allowed to move and operate freely. Many of Trócaire’s local partner organisations in the Gaza Strip have been unable to operate, and they have suffered their own horrendous ordeals through displacement and loss of friends and families. Almost 200 medics, 102 UN staff, 41 journalists, frontline and human rights defenders, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes.
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.