Statement, 10 November 2023 (updated on 14 March 2024)

HEKS calls for an immediate ceasefire and respect for international humanitarian law

In view of the unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip and reports of famine, an immediate ceasefire and safe access for humanitarian aid are urgently needed for the unconditional protection of the civilian population. HEKS/EPER calls on the Federal Council to support this within the framework of international bodies, in particular the UN Security Council. Further civilian casualties in Israel, Gaza and the occupied territories must be prevented and access to life-saving aid must be guaranteed for all those in need. All civilian hostages must also be released immediately and unconditionally.

The recent order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on provisional measures, which points to the real and imminent danger of genocide, shows the urgency of the situation. HEKS/EPER calls on all states, and Switzerland in particular, to continue to work for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in accordance with the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ. Israel's failure to comply with the ICJ's clear order to take "immediate and effective measures" to protect the Palestinians and ensure the delivery of vital humanitarian aid is exacerbating an already difficult situation. There are reports of increasing starvation in the Gaza Strip. HEKS/EPER stresses the need for immediate humanitarian access in order to provide the affected population with the most basic necessities. It appeals for international support in calling for a ceasefire and compliance with international humanitarian law. The urgency of tackling the hunger crisis must be recognised. Transport to Gaza by air or sea should be seen as complementary to land transport and not as a substitute, as it can in no way replace assistance delivered by road.

Nothilfe Israel/Palästina Gazastreifen

HEKS/EPER also stresses the serious consequences of a major attack on Rafah, which would make humanitarian aid impossible. The continuity of life-saving services in Rafah, including health care and food distribution, is already being hampered by the ongoing air strikes.

HEKS/EPER calls on all parties to the conflict to comply unconditionally with international humanitarian law - including the Geneva Conventions, their Additional Protocols and all applicable rules of customary international law - and condemns the continuing serious violations.

International humanitarian law is clear that civilians must be protected. The Hamas attacks on civilians on 7 October were a clear violation of this rule, as were the rocket attacks by Hamas and other armed groups, which do not distinguish between civilian and military targets. The deliberate killing of civilians, the taking of hostages and the inhumane treatment of people are war crimes.

The Israeli military also has a clear obligation under international humanitarian law to distinguish between combatants and civilians and between civilian objects and military targets in all military operations. The Israeli army must also confine itself to attacks on military targets and strictly adhere to the rules prohibiting indiscriminate attacks and ensuring proportionality.  

In addition, care must always be taken to spare civilians and civilian objects, and all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid, and in any case to minimise, civilian casualties, injuries to civilians and damage to civilian objects. Heavy explosive weapons should not be used in densely populated areas, as they are almost certain to cause serious harm to civilians.

Even in Rafah, there are still no safe escape routes or corridors for humanitarian aid to reach civilians fleeing the violence in Gaza. Humanitarian access to the conflict zone is protected by international humanitarian law. Both Hamas and Israel have an obligation to ensure that the civilian population trapped in Gaza is able to receive essential humanitarian assistance. Deliveries of goods essential to the survival of the civilian population are particularly protected by international humanitarian law. Starving civilians as a method of warfare is a war crime. International humanitarian law also strictly prohibits collective punishment, whereby one group is punished, sanctioned or victimised for the actions of others.

The Gaza Strip has been under blockade for years and the population was already suffering from an extremely difficult humanitarian situation before the recent escalation of violence. HEKS/EPER has been active in the region for many years, promoting dialogue and understanding and supporting the civilian population in demanding their basic rights. This work for dialogue must be continued.  

HEKS/EPER is therefore very concerned about the increase in hate speech and hate crimes on both sides of the conflict and about anti-Semitism in many countries, which also threatens Jewish lives in Europe. A clear and consistent stance against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism must be the basis of any dialogue in this context.

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