Ireland and EU must act to end Gaza Escalation
The European Union and the Irish government have failed to take firm and clear action to prevent further escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip, Trócaire Director Justin Kilcullen has said.
In the past week attacks by the Israeli military against Palestinians have resulted in the deaths of over 20 civilians in the Gaza Strip. Two Israeli civilians have also been injured as a result of Palestinian factions firing homemade rockets into Israel.
“The Irish government is failing in its duties towards the civilian population in the Gaza Strip,” Mr Justin Kilcullen said. “The escalation in violence which has occurred in the past week must be matched by clear statements by the Irish government and the EU to condemn such attacks from both sides and take appropriate action to stop the climate of impunity. This has not happened.”
Concerns have grown as the situation for Palestinian civilians inside the Gaza Strip continues to deteriorate. Israel has been shelling the northern Gaza Strip with an intensity of up to three shells per minute over the past six months. It has also closed the main commercial checkpoint into Gaza 41 per cent of the time, which has resulted in severe shortages of food and basic medical supplies, particularly affecting the 65 per cent of people who are living on or below the UN poverty line.
Khaled, an Arabic teacher from Jabalya refugee camp, told Trócaire: “The noise is horrendous for my children, every night the shelling continues. Now nobody can guarantee their safety, even when we go to the beach – the only form of enjoyment we had. I am glad that the children are on holidays from school so that they are not under threat from the shelling near-by to their school.”
Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights – a Trócaire partner based in Gaza – said: “We are faced with a clear choice: rule of law or rule of jungle. If the international community continues to allow Israel to undermine international law then we will be left with the rule of jungle.”
Trócaire calls on the Irish government and the EU to clearly condemn all attacks against civilians and to ensure that Israel and the Palestinian militant factions adhere strictly to the principles of international law, otherwise the situation will continue to deteriorate rapidly. Trócaire is supported in this call by four European sister organizations in the CIDSE network, an alliance of Catholic development agencies.
The Fourth Geneva Convention sets out standards of conduct applicable to both state forces and armed groups under military occupation. Ireland, and member states of the EU, have a clear obligation under common Article 1 to ‘respect and ensure respect’ for the Convention.
All parties involved in a conflict must distinguish between civilians and combatants and respond to any threat faced by them in a proportionate manner. While Israel has a duty to protect its citizens it must do so within internationally accepted legal parameters.
Trócaire calls for the Irish Government and the European Union to:
- apply principles of balance and equality of treatment to both sides so that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are not rewarded;
- actively encourage Hamas to engage with the principles of international law;
- set clear human rights benchmarks against Israel’s behaviour, as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, and act to ensure violations of those benchmarks are not rewarded . One of those benchmarks must include comprehensive acceptance and implementation of the ICJ Advisory Opinion, which called for the dismantling of the wall and its associated régime and confirms the applicability of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
- Publicly outline a set of clear, stringent steps to be taken in order to demand that Israel abides by both its agreements and responsibilities, including the Gaza agreement on trade and access.
Trócaire is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland.