For Immediate Release: January 16, 2009
New York — Human Rights First is deeply concerned by the human suffering and the loss of civilian lives resulting from the continuing violent conflict in the Gaza Strip and Israel. This week nine Israeli human rights organizations expressed alarm over the “clear and present danger to the lives and well being of tens of thousands of civilians,” resulting from the current conflict. Human Rights First shares their concerns and urges the parties to the conflict to take all necessary steps to maximize protection for civilian populations.
The Government of Israel and Hamas both are bound by international humanitarian law. In keeping with those obligations each party must restrict their attacks to legitimate military objectives, refrain from disproportionate attacks in which the expected incidental civilian harm is excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage to be gained, and take all feasible precautions to prevent or minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects. Each party must also refrain from actions that impede the provision of humanitarian assistance. Indeed both parties have an obligation to facilitate such assistance.
Violations of international law by all parties should be fully investigated and those responsible held accountable.
Human Rights First also calls on the governments of Israel and Egypt to provide greater access to the conflict areas by human rights workers, humanitarian aid providers and journalists. The greater presence of these groups will help ensure the immediate delivery of adequate humanitarian assistance to the civilian victims of this conflict and may also serve as a deterrent against violence against civilian populations and to monitor potential violations of international law. In accordance with their international law obligations, Israel and Egypt should also cooperate to open routes for civilians to escape from the conflict while guaranteeing their ability to return home at the end of the fighting.