Israel-Gaza: Humanitarians call for immedicate ceasefire as ground invasion looms

Amnesty and Norwegian Refugee Council issue calls for ceasefire to prevent further staggering levels of human suffering in Gaza

International humanitarian organisations have called for an immediate ceasefire on the Gaza strip as Israeli forces amass in preparation of a ground invasion of northern Gaza.

Nearly three weeks since the Islamic militia Hamas launched an act of terror on unarmed Israeli civilians, Israel has carried out a merciless bombing campaign and forced evacuation of the small territory which hosts 2.3 million Palestinians, already under siege by the Israeli blockade since 2008.

“Countless and completely innocent Palestinians now face indiscriminate and devastating Israeli bombardment and total siege. They are deprived of shelter, medical care, and even drinking water. This collective punishment brings endless suffering to civilians and costs thousands of lives,” said Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Since the horrific attacks in southern Israel on 7 October, in which Hamas and other armed groups killed at least 1,400 people and took over 200 hostages, most of them civilians, according to Israeli authorities, Israeli forces have launched thousands of air and ground strikes on the Gaza Strip, killing more than 6,546 people, mostly civilians, including at least 2,704 children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Over 17,439 have been injured and over 2,000 bodies are still trapped beneath the rubble while the health sector is on its knees.

“While we get increasingly desperate pleas of help and protection from our aid workers inside a sealed-off Gaza, world leaders have been incapable of producing anything that would end or even alleviate this haemorrhage of innocent lives:  no humanitarian ceasefire – not even a humanitarian pause; no humanitarian corridors; no lifting of the suffocating siege,” Egeland said.

Amnesty International also issued its own urgent call for a ceasefire, as over 2 million people in the Gaza Strip are struggling to survive amidst a catastrophic humanitarian crisis and the level of civilian casualties has been unprecedented.

“Serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, by all parties to the conflict continue unabated. In the face of such unprecedented devastation and suffering, humanity must prevail,” said Agnès Callamard Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Urgent action is needed to protect civilians and prevent further staggering levels of human suffering. We urge all members of the international community to come together to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire by all parties in the conflict.”

The NRC said just a few trucks had arrived to limited parts of Gaza, both totally insufficient and without supplies of essential fuel. “By failing to live up to their responsibilities to protect civilian life on all sides, leaders are not helping to break the vicious cycle which condemns future generations of Palestinians and Israelis to yet more conflict and death,” Egeland said.

The Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, the UN agencies working in Palestine, and many human rights experts, are also calling for a ceasefire, along with the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A looming ground offensive by Israeli forces into Gaza is likely to have cataclysmic consequences for Gaza’s civilians, as foretold by the ominous threats issued by the Israeli military to civilians remaining in northern Gaza.

Civilians in Israel also continue to come under attack from indiscriminate rocket fire from Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza.

“In the face of the unprecedented humanitarian disaster in Gaza that is growing worse by the day, an immediate ceasefire by all parties is vital to enable aid agencies to get sufficient relief into the Strip and to distribute it safely and unconditionally. It would give hospitals an opportunity to receive life-saving medicines, water and equipment they desperately need as well as to repair damaged wards,” said Agnes Callamard. 

“An immediate ceasefire is also the most effective way to protect civilians as warring parties continue to commit grave violations. It could prevent the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza and could also provide an opportunity to secure the safe release of hostages.”

Amnesty International has documented evidence of war crimes by Israeli forces and Hamas and other armed groups.