WCIA Statement on Gaza Conflict

12th June 2024

The WCIA team are gravely concerned by the desperate, daily struggle for survival for people living in Gaza, including the Israeli hostages held by Hamas. On 26 May, only days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued new provisional measures that ordered Israel to immediately end military operations in Rafah, Israeli airstrikes hit a tented camp for displaced people in the Tel al-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah, a designated ‘safe-zone’, killing over 45 Palestinian people and wounding 249, many of them children. The new ICJ provisional measures were made in relation to the case brought to the Court by South Africa accusing Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention. A week later, an Israeli operation to release 4 hostages from the Nuseirat refugee camp killed more than 270 Palestinian people and injured more than 600 people.

We can barely imagine the constant fear felt by people living in Gaza over the past 8 months, the agony of entire families lost, the sick and wounded with nowhere to turn for help, mothers unable to promise their children they will keep them safe, no food, no clean water, no home. All the basic necessities of life have been stripped away. Little wonder that some people are calling Gaza ‘hell on earth’. In its latest situation update, the World Food Programme said Adults and children are beyond exhausted from constant displacement, hunger, and fear.”

The suffering for families in Israel continues too, unbearable grief after their loved ones were killed by Hamas terrorists on October 7th and the desperate daily uncertainty for the welfare of those taken hostage by Hamas, fearing how loved ones are being treated and the pain of not knowing whether they are alive or dead.

This must stop now.

It is deeply unjust to exact reprisals against the whole Palestinian population for the actions of Hamas terrorists, or to consider communities as ‘collateral damage’. It is also unjust to blame Israeli citizens and Jewish communities globally, for the actions of the present right-wing Israeli government. Anti-Muslim and Anti-Semitic hatred are being fuelled by extremism and polarised debate, but the voices of citizens and communities on both sides of the conflict are critical to achieving peaceful co-existence – and ultimately for the long term, a 2 state solution .

We commend the tireless campaign and advocacy work for peace and justice, in Wales and across the world, of civil society and others over the past eight months, in demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire. These efforts are crucial in stopping the death and destruction, getting enough aid to people who desperately need it, and safely releasing the hostages.

We stand in solidarity with all victims of persecution and violence. We must do all we can to protect the universal human rights of all people and to ensure those in positions of power adhere to international law.

New analysis from the Global Protection Cluster reports that over five per cent of Gaza’s 2.10 million population has been either killed, injured, or is missing. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that nearly 85% of Gaza’s population are now displaced, the World Health Organisation says the health system in Gaza is barely surviving, and the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) states that famine is imminent as 1.1 million people, around half of the population of Gaza, are experiencing “catastrophic food insecurity”.

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, has called for an immediate return to negotiations, the release of hostages and a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli military assault exacerbates human suffering amid rising regional tensions. He said, “Palestinians and Israelis desperately need a political horizon. Without it, there is no sustainable path out of the suffering and misery we are witnessing every day.”

After calling for a ceasefire in November last year, in recent weeks, cross party Members of the Senedd have voiced calls for immediate recognition of the State of Palestine as a first step in a process to enable a path to a lasting peace and a two-state solution. They join Norway, Spain and Ireland, three of over 140 of the 193 United Nations member states, in recognising Palestine as a state.

Despite the UN Security Council Resolutions and an ICJ ruling calling for unhindered humanitarian access there are no signs of improvements on getting humanitarian aid into Gaza – in fact, humanitarian access has deteriorated in recent months. In January, the UK Government and others paused funding to UNWRA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, following allegations by the Israeli Government that staff were involved in the October 7th Hamas attacks. Following the release of an independent report which meets the requirements of the UK Government to restore funding, UK NGOs have written to the Prime Minister calling for the UK to restore and increase funding to UNWRA. The letter also highlights that, “The denial of funding to UNRWA will only lead to more deaths, at a time when the ICJ has underscored the need to prevent the risk of genocide and fulfil the dire humanitarian needs of Palestinians.”

In Wales, the Future Generations Commissioner, Derek Walker, has said “Everyone has the right to live in peace, now and in the future.”

As a globally responsible nation, Wales must call on the UK to:

• Uphold its legal and moral responsibility to ensure Israel complies with the ICJ order to immediately halt its offensive in Rafah, and to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in Rafah are protected. The fact the UK continues to license arms to Israel is defying the ICJ ruling and makes the UK complicit in any war crimes committed in Gaza.

• Immediately stop UK supplies of weapons to Israel, and instead press harder for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to prevent further bloodshed, and to ensure the safe return of all hostages and unlawfully detained Palestinians.

• Use every possible diplomatic and economic lever at its disposal to help secure an immediate, permanent ceasefire, to stop the death and destruction, and secure the safe release of all hostages.

Further information can be found here: Wales for Peace in Israel and Palestine: Call for Ceasefire

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