"Israeli ground forces entering southern Gaza means a further worsening of an already disastrous situation for civilians", says Gry Ballestad, head of Development and Humanitarian Cooperation in Norwegian People's Aid.
The UN reports over 15,000 killed and 40,000 injured, 70% of these are children and women. Many people are buried in the ruins of their homes, the actual number of fatalities is likely even higher. On Friday, evacuation orders was issued in the areas around Khan Younis, which had previously been a so-called "safe zone". During the weekend, several hundred thousands of people have again been forced to flee internally in southern Gaza. There are no safe places to flee to.
"According to international humanitarian law, the parties to a conflict must take all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians. This means, for example, giving effective advance warning of attacks, which needs to give people enough time to leave the areas under attack, ass well as safe areas to go to", says Ballestad. "Israel is clearly violating these principles when there are no safe places to escape to. A warning is also not necessarily enough in itself, civilians who choose not to evacuate do not lose their right to protection under international humanitarian law!"
At the same time as the attacks intensify, less help is also entering Gaza. The constant bombardment from land, air and sea, is preventing vital humanitarian aid from reaching people in dire need. "The international community must demand an immediate ceasefire, that international law of war is respected, and that the protection of civilians is given the highest priority", says Ballestad. "We are happy that Norway has been clear in its condemnation of the attacks we have witnessed so far, but at the same time as the attacks intensify, it is important that Norway's diplomatic efforts follow the same pattern. Strong pressure must be placed on other Western states to make it clear that Israel must stop the continuous violations of international law!"