Near East: Switzerland urges the parties to halt a dangerous escalation


The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is following with the most serious concern the dangerous escalation in violence which has been developing in the last few days in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territory. The events are having drastic consequences for the civilian population, which is already enduring unacceptable privations and suffering. At the political level, the spiral of violence is threatening to prevent the resumption, for a prolonged period, of the dialogue that is needed between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The DFA urges the parties to halt this dangerous escalation and to respect in full all the rules of international humanitarian law.

The situation is that of an armed conflict, and it must be considered in light of international humanitarian law. The Israeli military forces and the armed Palestinian groups must respect the provisions of international humanitarian law in their actions.

The Israeli soldier who has been taken prisoner by Palestinian fighters must be treated humanly in all circumstances in conformity with the Geneva Conventions. The State of Israel has the right to liberate the prisoner through resorting to military means, but it is also bound by the provisions of international humanitarian law. This body of law stipulates that military operations must be directed solely against strictly military objectives, that the population and civilian installations must be spared wherever possible, and in particular that all forms of collective punishment against the civilian population are forbidden. And, in general, military operations must respect the principle of proportionality.

The operations against an electric power station, which have cut off the supply of electricity and running water to the population of the Gaza Strip are without question in contravention of international humanitarian law. The arrest of ministers, parliamentarians and mayors of the Palestinian Authority is highly problematic because the internment of civilians and representatives of the authorities can only be tolerated if binding security interests or reprehensible criminal activities demand such action.

The DFA strongly condemns all acts of violence against the civilian population, no matter who the perpetrators are. It thus condemns the assassination, on Sunday 25 June, of a young Israeli settler in the West Bank.

At the political level, the DFA calls on all parties to exercise the greatest possible restraint and to start without delay the search for ways progressively to deescalate the situation. The sooner the violence stops, the sooner the necessary channels for dialogue will re-open, to which the very large majority of the populations of both sides aspire.

In this context, the DFA welcomes the agreement found on Tuesday 27 June between the two main Palestinian movements, Fatah and Hamas. This agreement is an encouraging step in the right direction towards a dialogue on peace based on previously concluded agreements, which aim to facilitate a solution that provides for the existence of two States living side-by-side within internationally recognised borders.

Document symbol: Switzerland_MEconflict
Document Type: French text, Press Release, Statement
Country: Switzerland
Subject: Gaza Strip, Incidents, Prisoners and detainees
Publication Date: 29/06/2006