Statement by the Protection Cluster for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Global Protection Cluster

2023-11-22
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Protection Is Not Optional: The Crisis in Gaza Must Change

The scale of suffering faced by the people of Gaza has been described as an unfolding catastrophe, a nightmare, a crisis of humanity. Yet these words still do not capture in full the horrendous reality that has become daily life for 2.2 million Palestinians. The death toll is colossal and mounting, estimated to now exceed 11,078 people, including 4,506 children, in Gaza and 1,200 people in Israel. The growing humanitarian crisis and protection calamity has reached a stage where the World Food Programme has warned that civilians across Gaza face the immediate possibility of starvation. None of this is inevitable, none of this has to be. Today‚Äôs announcement of a humanitarian pause must be the first in a series of steps needed to end what the Secretary General has called the collective punishment of the Palestinian population in Gaza, ensure the prioritization of civilian protection, and establish an enduring ceasefire.

Widespread shelling and airstrikes are killing civilians as they hit refugee camps, schools where internally displaced people are sheltering, hospitals and residential buildings, a result of the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas. It is estimated that Israeli bombardment has led to the destruction of half of all civilian infrastructure in Gaza. Contamination from explosive ordnance is now widespread and at a scale not previously seen. Protection partners and other humanitarians, local, national and international organizations trained and mandated to respond and save lives amidst the most difficult circumstances, are unable to operate with any degree of safety. Even wars have laws and these laws are designed to protect civilians and minimize any harm to them. International humanitarian law protects civilians and civilian objects, especially medical care - which should not be sites of conflict and fighting - their civilian status must be preserved and protected. The bombings must stop and a comprehensive ceasefire, including the release of all hostages, is needed now.

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