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Explosive weapon use in populated areas: a UN briefing by Palestine outlines the grim reality of Gaza under bombardment

In a recent briefing in Geneva for Signatories of the Political Declaration on EWIPA (Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas) and other interested States and stakeholders, a harrowing picture of the situation in occupied Palestine was presented. The briefing by the State of Palestine Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations Geneva, on the 10th October, 2023, emphasized (click here for full text) the ongoing crisis in Gaza, a densely populated Palestinian enclave under siege and facing severe bombardment. This article gives a summary of that briefing.

For wider context (and not part of the note), Israel began striking Gaza after the Hamas attacks on 7 October, which saw 1,400 people killed and more than 200 taken hostage. More than 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza since, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, including more than 4,500 children

The note itself outlined that Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, half of whom are children, is enduring a reality that some have called ‘war crimes’. The recent Israeli offensive, involving over 25,000 tonnes of explosives, surpasses the devastation of historic bombings, including Hiroshima. The use of white phosphorous, confirmed by human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch, further exacerbates the situation. If true, this constitutes a violation of international law.

The UN Secretary-General has described the situation as “relentless bombardment,” with Israel cutting off essential supplies like food, water, and electricity. The Palestinian authorities state that this amounts to collective punishment and starvation tactics. Over 11,000 Palestinians, predominantly civilians, have been killed, with entire families erased. This data, derived from Hamas-run Ministry of Health, has been deemed ‘credible’ by two conflict-data experts in an AOAV op-ed.

The situation for children is particularly dire, with reports indicating an alarming death toll and severe psychological trauma.

The scale of the destruction in Gaza, involving targeted attacks on civilian infrastructures like hospitals, schools, and refugee camps, has raised questions about the intent behind these operations. Accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been levelled against Israel, with the briefing drawing attention to the staggering death toll and systematic targeting of civilian areas.

The political and moral imperative of addressing this crisis has been underscored, particularly in light of the commitments made under the Political Declaration on EWIPA. The ethos of that declaration, signed last year in Dublin and aimed at addressing the harm caused by explosive weapons in populated areas, seems to be blatantly disregarded in the context of Gaza.

The international community, especially states supporting Israel, is facing criticism for their apparent inaction and continued military support; some states are also signatories of the Dublin commitment.

The briefing calls for immediate action, including a condemnation of the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas, a call for an immediate ceasefire, and the cessation of all military support to Israel. The importance of upholding international law and the need for accountability for the alleged war crimes was stressed, with a call to address the root causes of the ongoing conflict.In conclusion, the briefing highlighted the urgent need for international action and solidarity.

The situation in Gaza is not just a regional issue but a test of the international community’s commitment to human rights, international law, and the principles of humanity.

The plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza represents a moral and humanitarian crisis that demands immediate attention and action from the global community, a sentiment that AOAV supports and reiterates here.