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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS

Amnesty International urges arms embargo on all parties to the Israel-Gaza war

Amnesty International urges arms embargo on all parties to the Israel-Gaza war
An explosion (background) after an airstrike as Israeli military vehicles (foreground) move at the border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, on 5 December 2023. Israeli forces resumed military strikes on Gaza after a week-long truce ended on 1 December. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Atef Safadi)

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.

Wounded child, Gaza

A child wounded in Israeli airstrikes on southern Gaza arrives at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on 7 December 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Haitham Imad)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East Crisis news hub

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.

aftermath of an Israeli air strike in Gaza

Palestinians look at the aftermath of an Israeli air strike on Gaza City, on 9 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Haitham Imad)

“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.

Friends, relatives and comrades of late Israeli soldier Yehonatan Malka

Friends, relatives and comrades of late Israeli soldier Yehonatan Malka mourn during his funeral at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, on 6 December 2023. Malka was killed in action inside the Gaza Strip. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Abir Sultan)

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.

Deir Al Balah in the southern Gaza Strip

Palestinians make their way through the rubble following Israeli airstrikes on Deir Al Balah in the southern Gaza Strip on 5 December 2023. (Photo:EPA-EFE / Mohammed Saber)

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. 

Palestinian children fill water containers on Khan Yunis beach

Palestinian children fill water containers on Khan Yunis beach in the southern Gaza Strip on the last day of a negotiated temporary ceasefire agreement on 29 November 2023. According to UNRWA, on 29 November, ‘more than 70% of people in the Gaza Strip have been displaced by the war. More than one million people are now in UNRWA shelters, including nearly 100,000 people in 50 shelters in the north”. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Haitham Imad)

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.

Gaza wreckage

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli airstrikes on Deir Al Balah in the southern Gaza Strip on 5 December 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mohammed Saber)

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

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Samuel Ginsberg says:

    Yeah. Can you see Iran going along with that?

  • Coenraad van Schoor says:

    How is this an honest and true reporting? “Israel’s safe zones within Gaza are a mirage — they are unprotected, they’re not provisioned and they’re inaccessible.”; it is inaccessible because Hamas militants are blockading the routes towards those areas, shooting their own civilians who wish to run to safety, and they are not provisioned because the Hamas leadership are stockpiling the humanitarian aid supplied to the Gazan people for the personal use of that corrupt leadership.

    “5 December 2023. Israeli forces resumed military strikes on Gaza after a week-long truce ended on 1 December”…. Israel “resumed” military strikes? Seriously?! Hamas broke the ceasefire on 1 December that Israel was willing to continue, sending hundreds of rockets into Southern and Central Israel. Israel retaliated to that threat to their civilians by targeting those targets firing missiles at them. Israel didn’t “resume”, it defended! Why does the journalist mention Israel’s military action but, very conveniently, leaves out Hamas’ role leading to that action? The journalist’s choice of words speaks worlds of their opinion regarding this conflict. Really, I expected better reporting from Daily Maverick.

    • Esskay Esskay says:

      Spot on! As with most commentary about this war! Israel must make all the compromises

    • Denise Smit says:

      Agree, choice of photos the same.

    • John P says:

      “it is inaccessible because Hamas militants are blockading the routes towards those areas, shooting their own civilians who wish to run to safety, and they are not provisioned because the Hamas leadership are stockpiling the humanitarian aid supplied to the Gazan people for the personal use of that corrupt leadership.” All hearsay and unsubstantiated in your response.
      How would you expect people to move around and remain safe under constant air bombardment?

    • Bennie Morani says:

      Your comment is totally lacking in perspective and insight. And that is putting it very politely. The journalist has done no more than quote respected civil rights organisations. They are more believable than either the IDS or Hamas.

  • Stand For Truth says:

    War Crimes
    Some examples of prohibited acts include: murder; mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; taking of hostages; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population; intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historical monuments or hospitals; pillaging; rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy or any other form of sexual violence; conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.

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