Statement on the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (18/10/2023)

The death toll from the Hamas terror attack in Southern Israel last Saturday has reached 1400+ people. Hamas continues to fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel.

A reported 3000+ people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, with many more wounded. The humanitarian situation in Gaza – already critical – is quickly becoming untenable.

Rising tensions in the West Bank have led to civilian deaths and injuries.

We grieve for all innocent lives lost.

There is now a serious risk of wider regional conflict.

The Israeli authorities have confirmed that at least 199 hostages – including 10 UK Nationals – are being held captive in Gaza. They must be released immediately without pre-conditions. The International community must work urgently to help bring about their release.

Hamas is a heinous and barbaric terrorist organisation and must be held accountable for their horrific crimes. They are genocidal antisemites with utter disregard for human life. This also includes disregard for the lives of their fellow Palestinians they claim to represent – among those persecuted by Hamas are Bedouins, LGBT and peace activists.

Israel has the right under international law to defend itself from attack.

The International community must ensure that violations of international humanitarian law are not only punished but prevented. All parties to an armed conflict – whether States or non-State actors – are bound by these laws.

The international community must demand the release of all hostages and that those who commit crimes against humanity, the crime of aggression and war crimes are brought to justice.

Hamas terrorists must be distinguished from Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Almost 50% of Gaza’s population are children. Sieges that deprive civilians of goods essential for their survival are prohibited under Intl Humanitarian Law.

Last Friday the Israeli military called for the entire civilian population in the north of the Gaza strip – over 1 million people – to evacuate southward within 24hrs for their own safety. The UN has warned of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of such a move. Palestinians in Gaza are rightly concerned about never being allowed to return to the strip once evacuated.

The International community must ensure the following:

  • An international diplomatic effort must be built to demand the release of the hostages.
  • The supply of water, electricity, and goods essential for civilian survival must be restored to Gaza.
  • A humanitarian corridor must be opened to ensure that food and other essential supplies can get into Gaza.
  • Relief workers providing humanitarian assistance within Gaza must be protected and humanitarian funding should be scaled up as need increases.
  • All parties to the conflict must uphold their obligations under international law and the protections provided for civilians under International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.
  • Armed actors must take all feasible precautions prior to attack to avoid or minimise incidental harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.
  • All states, including the UK’s allies, should be urged to join the ICC to ensure compliance with international law and the rules of war.
  • Adequate time must be given to ensure civilians in northern Gaza are safely evacuated and this must be done in line with international law and the rights of displaced persons.

There has been a very alarming, sharp rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents in the UK and around the world.

Ire at the actions of the Israeli government must not be directed at Jewish people, and ire at the actions of Hamas must not be directed at Muslims or people of colour.

Governments must ensure the safety and wellbeing of our communities and authorities must take action against those who commit hate crimes.

In these dark times, it is imperative that the international community pulls together in humanitarian and diplomatic efforts to prioritise human security.

All countries with influence must exert it to ensure respect for the rules of war and to avoid any further escalation.

We call for a coalition of all those peace and democracy activists in both Israel and Palestine, and in the world, who support peace and democracy on both sides, who favour life and not death.

We support the human security of both Israelis and Palestinians.

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