Violence continues to escalate in Palestine. In Gaza, people living behind walls and closed borders are bombed, with no possibility of escape. In the West Bank, civilian Palestinians are attacked by angry mobs, both in the streets and in their own homes.
-We strongly condemn attacks on civilians from all sides. Civilians must never be a target and must be protected. In Gaza this is especially difficult, says Norwegian People Aid's secretary general, Henriette Westhrin.
- Gaza is extremely densely populated and it is impossible not to damage civilians or civilian infrastructure with the type of attacks we see now.
When explosive weapons are used in cities, approximately 90% of those injured and killed are civilians. We know this from over 10 years of data collection and documentation. Vulnerable groups such as children, people with disabilities and the elderly are harder hit. In Gaza, almost half of the population is children under 18.
- After decades of underdevelopment and poverty as a result of the Israeli occupation, access to basic services such as water and electricity is severely limited and vulnerable. The blockade and repeated acts of war have brought Gaza to the brink of collapse. Covid-19 has put further pressure on an already overstretched health service, which lacks equipment, medicines and health personell, and now has to withstand heavy attacks on top of that, says Westhrin.
Norwegian People's Aid has so far raised over 1 million NOK for our work in Palestine, and is expanding humanitarian activities to meet increased needs for vital aid, such as food, water and hygiene products. Through civil protection and preparedness work, we provide information on how to protect oneself against explosive weapons.
- While bombs are falling, it's demanding to get the help out, and the attacks place great limits on the ability to respond, says Westhrin. -The only way to effectively stop civilian suffering is to stop the bombing immediately, and Norway can contribute to this through its seat on the Security Council.
The Security Council must condemn the use of violence and demand an immediate end to the fighting. Norway must be clear that even if violence from both sides affects civilians, there is a requirement for proportionality. Israel has overwhelming military strength and the humanitarian consequences for the civilian population on the Palestinian side are far more serious due to the vulnerability created by decades of occupation and blockade.
Norway should be clear in pointing out the link between the occupation and the frustration among the Palestinians.