After weeks of intense fighting, over two million civilians are trapped in the densely populated Gaza Strip with nowhere to flee to for safety. With hostilities continuing unabated, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is urgently appealing for civilian life to be protected and respected on all sides.
28 October 2023// ICRC
The immediate imperative must be to save lives and preserve humanity, including by ensuring hospitals can operate in safety. Critical services like healthcare, water, and electricity must be immediately restored in Gaza as a lifesaving priority.
“I am shocked by the intolerable level of human suffering and urge the parties to the conflict to deescalate now. The tragic loss of so many civilian lives is deplorable. It is unacceptable that civilians have no safe place to go in Gaza amid the massive bombardments, and with a military siege in place there is also no adequate humanitarian response currently possible. This is a catastrophic failing that the world must not tolerate,” said Mirjana Spoljaric, the president of the ICRC.
Under international humanitarian law, the parties are obligated to spare civilians from the effects of military operations at all times, to distinguish between civilians and military targets, and to never use human shields to prevent military objectives from being attacked. They must also ensure that the basic needs of the population are met.
“In the face of this dramatic armed conflict, what is critically needed now is adherence to international humanitarian law by all parties. An unhindered flow of humanitarian relief and personnel into Gaza is vital, as is the capacity to get basic services on their feet again. Sustained humanitarian access is imperative, and aid workers must be able to operate in a safe environment,” President Spoljaric said.
Thousands of families in Gaza are sleeping in makeshift shelters or out in the open with little food and water. Destroyed homes and essential infrastructure will take years to rebuild, while the hospitals still functioning are on the verge of collapse as they run out of supplies to care for the many sick and injured. Most wastewater plants are no longer functioning.
ICRC teams in Gaza are doing their utmost to help in dangerous and chaotic conditions. Ten ICRC experts including a surgical team and additional medical supplies arrived in Gaza yesterday, but this small dose of relief is not enough given the tragedy unfolding in Gaza.
We continue our dialogue with the parties to find solutions to the most pressing humanitarian issues, such as protecting civilians and helping the wounded. The ICRC continues to call for the immediate release of all hostages, and we reiterate our offer to facilitate any future hostage release operation. We also ask to visit the hostages, bring them medicines, and to facilitate contact with their families who are worried sick waiting for news.