MIDDLE EAST CRISIS
Amnesty International urges arms embargo on all parties to the Israel-Gaza war
Amnesty International has called for a comprehensive United Nations Security Council arms embargo on all parties to the Israel-Gaza War. In the absence of this, the organisation has called on individual states — including the United States — to impose their own suspensions on arms transfers.
Amnesty International has been calling for a comprehensive United Nations (UN) Security Council arms embargo on all parties in the Israel-Gaza War, including Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.
Amanda Klasing, national director of government relations and advocacy at Amnesty International USA, said that the arms embargo should be enacted until there was no longer a substantial risk that arms could be used to commit violations of international humanitarian law.
“In the absence of the UN Security Council arms embargo, we’re calling for states — including the United States — to immediately impose their own suspensions,” she said.
Klasing was speaking at a press briefing on the situation in Gaza on Thursday, attended by representatives of various international aid organisations, including Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières/MSF), Doctors of the World, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, and Save the Children.
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Focusing on the US, Klasing said, “Overall analysis [of the Israel-Gaza War] is that violations of international humanitarian law and potential war crimes continue unabated, and therefore the US should suspend arms transfers to Israel. This is consistent with the Biden administration’s own policy.”
According to a report by Just Security, US President Joe Biden’s administration issued a Conventional Arms Transfer policy in February 2023 to guide the United States’ arms export decisions. One section of this policy declared that the US would not transfer weapons when it was “more likely than not” that the weapons would be used to “commit, facilitate the commission of or aggravate the risk of specified violations”. These violations included breaches of international humanitarian or human rights law.
“This week, we published findings that US-made arms were used in two deadly unlawful airstrikes on homes that led to 43 civilian deaths. This provides the most significant direct evidence to date that the US must apply its own laws and policies and suspend [arms transfers] in this context,” said Klasing.
Amnesty International’s findings, published on 5 December, stated that fragments of US-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions [JDAM] bombs had been found in the rubble of homes destroyed by Israeli air strikes. The organisation stated that these strikes were either direct attacks on civilians or indiscriminate attacks, and called for them to be investigated as war crimes.
Both the affected homes were reportedly south of Wadi Gaza, within the area the Israeli military ordered residents of northern Gaza to relocate to on 13 October.
“[Amnesty International] has raised concerns that states that continue to transfer arms to either Israel or Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups with knowledge that the recipient state or group is using these arms to commit internationally wrongful acts… are themselves at risk of being complicit in the harms,” said Klasing.
Safe zones a ‘mirage’
The housing and humanitarian crisis in Gaza has worsened with the renewal of hostilities after the recent humanitarian pause, according to Bushra Khalidi, Oxfam’s policy lead.
“We have over 1.8-million people displaced to the south, living in overcrowded shelters, and then a constant threat of a looming epidemic and bombardments,” she said.
Sharing the experience of her sister-in-law living in Gaza, Khalidi said, “The situation in Gaza is not just a catastrophe, it’s apocalyptic… with potential irreversible consequences on Palestinian people. Israel’s safe zones within Gaza are a mirage — they are unprotected, they’re not provisioned and they’re inaccessible.”
Khalidi welcomed UN chief António Guterres’ recent invocation of Article 99 of the UN’s charter to step up his calls for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The article, which has not been explicitly invoked since 1971, allows the secretary-general to bring any issue seen as threatening international peace to the Security Council’s attention.
Read more in Daily Maverick: UN chief Guterres invokes Article 99 of UN charter to press for ceasefire in Gaza
Chiara Saccardi, head of Action Against Hunger in the Middle East, said that people in Gaza were “angry, depressed and hopeless” about the situation on the ground.
There was little safe drinking water remaining in the north or south of Gaza, she continued, and an estimated 60% of homes had been damaged or destroyed across the region.
On the situation in southern Gaza, Saccardi said, “There are no safe zones at all. There are no adequate shelters. People are trying to create makeshift shelters with plastic and wood. There are no bathrooms, people are digging holes in the sand to use as a toilet.
“Children represent around half of the population in Gaza. They are the most severely affected. The lack of water and hygiene is aggravating the diseases — diarrhoea, vomiting, skin allergies.” DM