NEW YORK, Jan 25 (IPS) – A coalition of 16 leading human rights organizations issued a joint statement Wednesday calling on all nations to immediately stop sending weapons to both Israel and and Palestinian militants, warning that continued arms transfers risk exacerbating what’s already one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history.
The groups—including Save the Children International, Doctors of the World, Oxfam International, and Amnesty International—said arms transfers must stop as long as it’s possible they will be “used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law.”
“Israel’s bombardment and siege are depriving the civilian population of the basics to survive and rendering Gaza uninhabitable,” reads the groups’ statement. “Today, the civilian population in Gaza faces a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented severity and scale.”
“Furthermore, Palestinian armed group-led attacks killed around 1,200 people and took hundreds of Israeli and foreign hostages, including children, and continue to hold more than 130 hostages captive inside Gaza,” the statement continues.
“Armed groups in Gaza have continued to indiscriminately fire rockets toward population centers in Israel, disrupting school for children, displacing and threatening the lives and well-being of civilians. Hostage-taking and indiscriminate attacks are violations of international humanitarian law and must end immediately.”
Individual groups such as Human Rights Watch have previously called for an arms embargo on Israel and Palestinian militants, but Wednesday’s call represents the first coordinated appeal from top humanitarian groups for an immediate end to weapons transfers since Israel began its latest assault on Gaza in October.
The groups urged the United Nations Security Council—which has been stifled by the U.S., Israel’s top arms supplier—to adopt a resolution imposing a weapons embargo on the Israeli government and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza, where most of the population is displaced and at risk of starvation after three and a half months of incessant Israeli bombing.
“American taxpayers should not be subsidizing war crimes,” Martin Butcher, policy adviser on arms and conflict at Oxfam International, said during a press call on Wednesday, stressing that most of Israel’s arms come from just a handful of powerful nations—the U.S., Germany, and the United Kingdom.
The U.S. alone has provided Israel with more than 10,000 tons of weaponry since October 7, including 2,000-pound bombs, tank ammunition, and drones. Hamas, meanwhile, “fights with a patchwork of weapons built by Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea,” The Associated Pressreported last week.
The humanitarian coalition noted in its statement that Israel has used its vast military arsenal to destroy a large portion of “Gaza’s homes, schools, hospitals, water infrastructure, shelters, and refugee camps.”
“The indiscriminate nature of these bombings and, a pattern of apparently disproportionate civilian harm they routinely cause, is unacceptable,” the groups said.
“All states have the obligation to prevent atrocity crimes and promote adherence to norms that protect civilians.”
The global appeal for an arms embargo comes as conditions on the ground in Gaza are deteriorating by the hour as Israeli forces assail the enclave, imperiling its remaining hospitals and adding to the grisly death toll.
Israel, which is facing a genocide case at the International Court of Justice, claims it is targeting Hamas militants—but in reality no one has been safe from its wide-ranging attack on the territory. A majority of those killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since October have been women and children, and an estimated 90% have been civilians.
As the humanitarian coalition said in its statement, “Gaza today is the most dangerous place to be a child, a journalist, and an aid worker.”
Alexandra Saieh, head of humanitarian policy and advocacy at Save the Children, said during Wednesday’s press call that arms transfers to Israel are “directly fueling the death and destruction in Gaza.”
Israel’s relentless bombing and siege, Saieh added, are “choking the humanitarian response as levels of starvation and children are forced to have limbs amputated without anesthetics.”
The only way to stop the bloodshed and allow aid to reach desperate Gazans, the humanitarian groups argued, is an immediate arms embargo and a lasting cease-fire—proposals that the U.S. has actively opposed.
“All states have the obligation to prevent atrocity crimes and promote adherence to norms that protect civilians,” the groups said. “The international community is long overdue to live up to these commitments.”
Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.
Source: Common Dreams
IPS UN Bureau
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