The escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine has caused unacceptable harm to civilians. Targeting civilians is always illegal, immoral and unacceptable. Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) calls for the immediate de-escalation and end of the hostilities. The use of weapons which inflict tremendous harm and the level of violence is appalling. Complete compliance with international humanitarian law is a minimum, and we call for full protection of civilians by all parties to the conflict at all times.
The escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine has caused unacceptable harm to civilians. Targeting civilians is always illegal, immoral and unacceptable. NPA calls for the immediate de-escalation and end of the hostilities. The use of weapons which inflict tremendous harm and the level of violence is appalling. Complete compliance with international humanitarian law is a minimum, and we call for full protection of civilians by all parties to the conflict at all times.
We are devastated by the human suffering stemming from the recent events in Palestine and Israel. Direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law (IHL). Furthermore, all feasible precautions must be taken in attack and defense. It is important to reiterate that IHL represents the minimum standard, even in the most desperate circumstances. Never can a wrongdoing by one party justify the wrongdoing of its adversary. All parties to a conflict have a choice when it comes to conduct of hostilities. Humanity and protection of civilians must prevail when such choices are made.
In this statement, NPA comments on certain weapon types and the unacceptable harm and risks they pose to civilians.
NPA calls on all parties to the conflict to stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas due to the high risk of harm to civilians. Explosive weapons have been used to a massive extent so far. During the first week of this conflict, thousands of explosive weapons hit Israel and the Gaza Strip. Such weapons kill, injure, damage, and destroy using blast and fragmentation from the detonation of explosives. They are a leading cause of harm to civilians in armed conflict. Data shows that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, around 90% of victims are civilians. Victims of explosive weapons suffer complex and life changing injuries and long-term psychological distress from the trauma of living under bombing. NPA is now extremely concerned about the immediate and long-term consequences for the civilian population in Gaza. Measures can and must be taken to prevent harm to civilians from the use of explosive weapons.
The political declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas signed by 83 states in Dublin in November 2022, shows that there is international political attention to the issue of increasing the protection of civilians in conflict, beyond the minimum standard. The political declaration requires changes in policy and practice, including a commitment to avoid civilian harm by restricting or refraining from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Israel has not endorsed the declaration. The State of Palestine has endorsed it.
NPA strongly condemns the use of white phosphorus (WP) in Palestine and Lebanon, as documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and calls for an immediate stop to the use of all incendiary weapons, including WP. There are also available alternatives for illumination and smoke-screen purposes without the harmful incendiary effects. The immediate and protracted harm caused by WP is unacceptable; WP causes chemical and thermal burns, often down to the bone as it is highly soluble in fat; it burns when exposed to oxygen, and as such can cause wounds which have been dressed and treated to re-ignite when exposed to air again, causing either a slow and painful death or a lifelong of physical and psycho-social suffering due to the severity of the inflicted injuries. WP also endangers the environment, damages livelihoods and infrastructure. The use of WP in populated areas, such as by the port of Gaza, seems to violate the IHL obligation to take all feasible precautions in an attack, as mentioned above. There are no circumstances under which the use of WP can be justified, especially not when used in populated areas where civilians will inevitably be at great risk. NPA has been advocating for and continues to call for a complete ban on the use of all incendiary weapons under all circumstances, including a ban on WP munitions. There are significant loopholes in international law governing the use of incendiary weapons that must be urgently remedied.
These loopholes particularly apply to WP; multipurpose munitions containing WP are especially problematic and can have a detrimental incendiary effect, even though they are not primarily designed as an incendiary weapon. There is also an arbitrary distinction between ground launched and air launched incendiary weapons, where the former has much weaker regulation. States must urgently and collectively strengthen the regulations against incendiary weapons including WP, through a complete ban.
NPA is also deeply concerned with the claims of mines being placed. Although it is unclear what type and to what extent mines are being used, at this stage, the indications cause serious concern. Antipersonnel mines are explosive devices designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity, or contact of a person. They do not discriminate between combatants and civilians, causing injury and death, blocking humanitarian access, critical infrastructure, hindering livelihoods and development for decades after a conflict is over. They are banned by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) and we call on those states which have not already done so to accede to the APMBC and implement it fully as soon as possible. Palestine is a State Party to the APMBC, while Israel is not. Any use of AP mines, by any actor, under any circumstances is unacceptable.
NPA calls for principled and consistent application of the existing international humanitarian law and humanitarian disarmament norms, as well as for stronger protection of civilians by all actors, at all times and under all circumstances.