Aid agency calls for effective international intervention in Gaza
In a situation of ongoing violence and the sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation, civilians are now paying the highest price in growing numbers because of the escalating violence in Gaza, according to aid agency Oxfam International.
Last week Israeli occupying forces launched a large-scale military operation and widespread destruction of Palestinian homes in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, in particular around Jabaliya refugee camp, home to more than 100,000 refugees. Israeli officials have described this military operation as 'open-ended'.
Since September 28, 82 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 24 children, according to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Hundreds of others have been wounded. Five Israelis, including two children, have also lost their lives in the past week.
Oxfam believes that civilians caught up in armed conflict have every right to be protected, as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions.
Oxfam's Regional Manager for the Middle East, Adam Leach, says: "Protecting civilians should not be a by-product of a political process but intrinsic to it. Their protection could strengthen the political process, safeguard civil society and reverse the decline in the security situation.
"As both Palestinian and Israeli families mourn the loss of their loved ones, we urge the international community to be actively involved in protecting civilian life to reverse poverty, reduce violence and lay the foundations for peace."
Oxfam International condemns the Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot which killed five Israelis and acknowledges the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security, free from the threat of violence.
Oxfam International also condemns the disproportionate military operation in Gaza and believes that Israel is obliged to ensure that any measures taken to protect the lives of Israeli civilians must be consistent with its obligations to respect human rights and International Humanitarian Law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33 that prohibits forcible migration and destruction of private properties.
Oxfam says it is imperative that humanitarian agencies, refused entry to Gaza since Tuesday, 21September, be admitted in order for needs to be assessed.
The aid agency is urging the international community to find an external mechanism to protect civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to halt the worsening humanitarian situation, improve security for Palestinians and Israelis and enhance prospects for peace and a renewed political process.
Oxfam works with partner organisations in Gaza including the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Palestinian Hydrology Group. Oxfam is deeply concerned at the impact of the conflict on Israeli and Palestinian civilians, its programmes and those of our Israeli and Palestinian partner organisations and the effect of the conflict on the wider region.
In May 2004, Oxfam International published a briefing paper called:
– Protecting civilians. A cornerstone of Middle East peace
– Briefing paper #62 pdf file 122kb
For more information or to arrange interviews call Zahra Akkerhuys, media officer, on +44 1865 313152 or +44 7974 313566 or Andy Hill, based in Jerusalem on +972 547 367 669 or +972 2656 6234.