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The Elders call for urgent review of military assistance to Israel over Gaza atrocities

December 5, 2023 at 9:06 am

Israeli tanks, howitzers and armored vehicles are seen as Israeli Forces resume deploy soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles near the Gaza border in Sderot, Israel on December 02, 2023 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

The independent global leaders group, the Elders, has called for governments providing military assistance to Israel to review their approach, and set conditions for any future provision. The Elders warn that Israel’s renewed military campaign in Gaza risks fuelling an escalating cycle of mass atrocities.

The group described Israel’s attack on Gaza as having reached “a level of inhumanity towards Palestinians in Gaza that is intolerable.” Although the Elders described the events of 7 October as “horrendous terror attacks”, they did not place what happened in the context of 75 years of military occupation and state terror by the apartheid state. The late Desmond Tutu, a founder member of the Elders, said in 2014, “I know first-hand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation.”

The fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, the Elders pointed out, has caused collective trauma on both sides. “Palestinians and Israelis continue to fear for their lives, and feel a sense of existential threat. More killing is not the answer.”

Nevertheless, they said, Palestinian civilians in Gaza are now facing even worse horrors. “Civilian deaths caused by Israeli forces since 7 October have been unprecedented, but are described by Prime Minister Netanyahu as ‘collateral damage’.” Many Palestinians in Gaza, the Elders noted, are living in “inhumane conditions with no basic human dignity, and increasing risks of deadly disease and starvation. If the world can watch this scale of brutality and suffering and not prevent it, we have lost our common humanity.”

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement that it is “imperative that Israel act in accordance with international humanitarian law and the laws of war” must be backed by action to ensure proportionality and protect civilians, said the Elders. “Words are not enough. States have a legal obligation to take steps to prevent atrocity crimes. The de-humanising rhetoric that has accompanied large-scale violence in this war is a warning sign that cannot be ignored. Governments which provide military assistance in the knowledge that atrocities are being committed, or may be imminent, risk being complicit.”

The Elders urged leaders with influence on Israel and Hamas, particularly in the USA, Europe and the region, to push for a permanent ceasefire, and full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2712 (passed on 15 November). This, they insisted, requires all parties to comply with international humanitarian law, the restoration of basic services and humanitarian assistance indispensable to survival, protection of all medical and humanitarian staff, including UN facilities, and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups.

READ: Genocide is often preceded by warning signs and must be prevented: UN Rights chief