3rd Thursday Alert: Urge a ceasefire; abide by international law; release hostages & prisoners; protect civilians; and support humanitarian aid & access to Gaza

3rd Thursday Alert: Urge a ceasefire; abide by international law; release hostages & prisoners; protect civilians; and support humanitarian aid & access to Gaza

The devastating loss of life in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories since October 7 has overshadowed what had already been one of the deadliest years for both peoples in recent memory. While efforts have intensified to halt the bloodshed, appeals to all parties to respect international humanitarian law and firmly promote long-term diplomatic efforts, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza must be addressed immediately.

Israel has imposed a 16-year blockade of Gaza, which it has tightened since the start of the war. With Israeli administrative control of aid coming into Gaza through the Rafah and Karim Shalom entry points, and the recent call to cut off Gaza from Egypt, US officials need to urgently press upon Israel to:

1. enact an immediate ceasefire, and address the ongoing impact of the occupation
2. allow for humanitarian aid including water, food, shelter, and fuel to flow unabated and reach those in need in Gaza,
3. allow Gazans to access safe spaces such as schools, hospitals, houses of worship, etc., and
4. respect those safe spaces by abiding by international humanitarian law.

Israel’s violent response, which has had large-scale indiscriminate effects, has already claimed thousands of civilian lives, primarily in Gaza, must end.

Since October 7th 1.9 million Palestinians have been displaced within Gaza from the districts of North Gaza, Gaza City, Deir El-Balah, Khan Younis, and extending further south. Gaza remains sealed with no space for Gazans to move out of harm’s way. Over 24,000 civilians have been killed, and an overwhelming amount of Palestinian infrastructure in Gaza has been destroyed by the Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip. 80% of Palestinians in Gaza are on the verge of starvation. The US and the United Nations must ensure the protection of Palestinians in Gaza. So far, 64 Congressional members have called for a ceasefire (60 in the House of Representatives and 4 in the Senate).

Churches have been unequivocal in deploring Hamas’ vicious attack initiated on October 7 and have called for the immediate release of all hostages still held in captivity.

Since October 7th churches and humanitarian organizations have appealed to Congress to:

1. Publicly call for ceasefire, de-escalation and restraint by all parties;
2. Expand the readiness of and capacity for a desperate humanitarian response;
3. Call on all parties to abide by the laws of war, including the Geneva conventions, customary international law and international human rights law; and
4. Prioritize steps to secure immediate release of hostages and prisoners, and international protection for civilians.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 11 other senators who joined him earlier this month are to be commended for supporting S. Res. 504 which would invoke section 502B(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act to study potential human rights violations in use of U.S. military aid being sent to Israel. While this effort is encouraging, more needs to be done to address the unqualified delivery of aid to Israel and how Israel is conducting its military campaign in Gaza.

Further offensive military assistance to Israel cannot “remedy” its immediate intelligence failure and the United States should not provide such aid. While there has been one “humanitarian pause” in November, the situation in Gaza remains untenable. The international community must redouble its diplomatic efforts to halt the current crisis and prevent a downward spiral toward an even wider regional war.