Media Release: 22 July 2014

Stop the Fighting, Lift the Siege

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network urges the Australian Government to use its current membership of the Security Council to call for both sides to end the current fighting in Gaza and for the removal of the Israeli blockade imposed on its population.

APAN commends the leadership role Australia has played in obtaining a unanimous resolution of the Security Council on the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine. By seizing the initiative on this issue Australia has shown that international action can make a difference.

Meanwhile, the situation in Gaza drags into a second week of open conflict with escalating civilian casualties. The fighting, far from resolving the issues raised by the original kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, has escalated to the point where it is developing a dangerous momentum of its own. The steady increase in the deployment of the Israeli armed forces and the widening of their ground operations inside Gaza are bringing events to the edge of chaos.

The Israeli operation is increasingly developing into a land invasion, advancing into Zaytoon, Toffah and al-Shuju’iya neighbourhoods in the east of Gaza city. Several homes were deliberately pounded to the point where supposedly targeted raids resulted in 60 Palestinian deaths in one night. In another ‘pin prick’ operation on the weekend, four young boys playing on the beach were selected as targets by an Israeli warship, killing two of them as they ran terrified to seek shelter. Likewise, Wafa Hospital has been partially destroyed by Israeli artillery along with numerous homes, mosques, schools and other medical centres.

These are clear violations of the rules of war including the Geneva Conventions. Israel cites these attacks as a response to Hamas firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. Hamas rocket fire has clearly provoked Israel’s attack on Gaza but to use the rockets (which have so far brought two fatalities) as the excuse for yet another massive new bombing and land operation totally violates the provisions under international law for proportionality in conflict and thus constitutes a potential war crime. It is not sufficient to answer one side’s use of indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilians by retaliating with the same action on a massive scale.

The Australian Government has rightly urged both sides to act with restraint but Israel seems determined to drive the issues forward to a major confrontation with Hamas with the aim of destroying the National Unity Government in Palestine. APAN calls on all Australian political and community leaders to exert pressure on Israel to end the escalation, for both sides to accept a ceasefire, support the National Unity Government and to move towards dismantling the cruel and disproportional blockade of the population fo Gaza.