Islamic Relief strongly condemns the appalling violence against civilians in Israel and Gaza in recent days and is calling for an immediate ceasefire. With the humanitarian crisis spiraling out of control, it is vital that aid is allowed to reach all civilians in need.
More than 2,600 people have been killed and thousands injured, and the death toll is rapidly mounting. Most of the casualties are civilians, including many children. Any further escalation will inevitably kill and injure many more civilians, leaving lasting psychological scars on a generation.
IRW urges all parties to respect and uphold international humanitarian law. They must ensure that civilians are protected, must not target civilian infrastructure, and must ensure that civilians have access to basic necessities such as water, food, and power. Attacks on homes, schools, and hospitals, and blocking aid and essential supplies, violate these basic protections.
International law must be upheld consistently and no less assertively in Israel and Palestine than it is in other parts of the world.
A crippling blockade now made ‘total’
While the region mourns the many deaths of recent days, civilians must not be punished further for actions for which they bear no responsibility. The tightening of Israel’s siege of Gaza – cutting off supplies of food, medicine, fuel, and aid – represents collective punishment of all 2.2 million people living in Gaza, around half of whom are children.
This is having catastrophic humanitarian consequences, and the poorest and most vulnerable people are suffering the most. Gaza’s power plant has already shut down as a result, with a potentially deadly impact on essential medical and water/sanitation services. Hospitals in Gaza that are full of injured children are running out of power and medicine, and sewage is spilling into the streets as sanitation infrastructure is damaged. Food supplies are running low.
Many medical workers and UN staff have been killed in the bombing so far, while ambulances carrying injured people and schools sheltering displaced families have been hit. The bombing has forced more than 360,000 people to flee their homes, yet the blockade means that for people in Gaza, there is nowhere safe to go.
Humanitarian aid is based on the principles of humanity, impartiality, and neutrality, and aid for desperate civilians must not be politicized or used as a bargaining chip. Humanitarian aid and critical supplies must be allowed into Gaza and aid safely delivered to vulnerable civilians. The establishment of a humanitarian corridor is essential. Any civilian hostages should be released, in accordance with international law.
The International community
It is vital that international governments continue to fund humanitarian organizations and UN agencies to provide aid and essential services.
16 years of blockade and recurring conflict have left Gaza’s infrastructure near collapse. Even before this latest escalation, healthcare facilities were poorly equipped, more than 90% of available water was unsafe to drink, food supplies were not enough for most families, and 80% of Gaza’s population was reliant on some form of international aid to survive. This number may rise as internal displacement spikes due to the ongoing violence.
The international community must also call on all parties to uphold humanitarian principles and ensure civilians are protected as well as calling on all parties to focus on seeking lasting peace.
Islamic Relief has worked in Gaza since 1997 and the organization remains steadfast in its determination to assist vulnerable people. Working closely with the local humanitarian partners, IRW has managed to deliver medical supplies to health facilities and started distributing food to vulnerable displaced families. However, the extremely heavy bombing and the total siege make this very difficult and dangerous.