Palestine: We call out the hypocrisy and demand a ceasefire now

Statement by the Steering Committee of the Geneva Global Health Hub (G2H2)

Nearly 20,000 Palestinians in Gaza have already been killed since the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commenced its indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip in the wake of the brutal attacks by Hamas on 7th October, which left 1,200 people in Israel killed and 240  kidnapped, and shocked Israelis. A hard negotiated humanitarian pause only lasted seven days. The urgent need for a lasting ceasefire now cannot be overemphasised, to mitigate the military violence-made health and humanitarian disaster in Gaza.

Up to 70 percent of the many thousands of people killed in this closed strip of land in just over two months are women and children. According to the United Nations, this figure is more than double the number of confirmed deaths of women and children in almost two years of war in Ukraine. The humanitarian pause brought a short-lived reprieve to Palestinians under attack and worried about their relatives, friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, tensions are also surging in the West Bank, where life for Palestinians has become impossible. 

Gaza has been turned into a mass grave, a wasteland with no way out for its inhabitants.  More than 300,000 housing units have been destroyed or damaged according to the locally responsible Shelter Cluster. The health system is overwhelmed, and has virtually collapsed. At least 300 health workers have been killed and more than 1.9 million people displaced. Water supply and sewage systems have been rendered completely dysfunctional. Food production and supply have been crippled and much-needed fuel is now almost nonexistent. Desolation and hunger stalk Gaza, starvation being used as a weapon of war against Palestinians, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Geneva Conventions have been disregarded with the utmost contempt by both parties,  by exposing and killing unarmed civilians and the alleged use of health facilities for strategic military purposes. Also, targeting hospitals and health posts and personnel during conflicts is a war crime that cannot be justified under any circumstances. In their assault on Gaza, the Israeli Defence Forces attacked hospitals, schools and United Nations facilities. 

United Nations experts have called on the international community to prevent a genocide against the Palestinian people. The intensity and extent of the flurry of bombardments are unprecedented, and they continue with ferocity, steered by the dehumanizing rhetoric of political leaders in Israel, advocating for the “destruction” of Gaza and “Biblical vengeance” and more annihilationist statements. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has underscored how “millions of Palestinians struggle to live with dignity under Israeli occupation, facing coercive practices”. 

The immediate and long-term implications of the massive destruction of Gaza, and the unparalleled scope of killing and maiming tens of thousands of people in a population that is largely under-age, can hardly be fathomed at the moment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that disease and starvation could kill many more people than the bombs have done so far, if the shattered healthcare and sanitation systems are not restored immediately.  There are “no medicines, no vaccination activities, no access to safe water and hygiene and no food” for the displaced persons in northern Gaza, as the United Nations has repeatedly alerted. 

The mass killing and displacement of civilians must stop NOW. 

The destruction of health facilities and other civilian infrastructure must stop NOW. 

We urgently demand 

  • A permanent ceasefire, an open negotiation among all relevant parties, as well as the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages from both sides and commensurate international action to immediately address the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.  

  • An end to double standards regarding efforts to uphold the respect for international humanitarian and human rights law as could be observed, not for the first time, during the vote for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and Israel in the United Nations General Assembly on December 12, 2023 or by yet another US veto in the UN Security Council to shield Israel from criticism and political pressure, let alone consequences for its actions.

  • A rapid and determined response to stop the impunity of those committing grave violations of international law, irrespective of who the perpetrators or the victims are. State parties are obliged to respect the laws of war and defend the principles of international law. We cannot accept hypocritical policies and double standards, if we intend to bring peace and solidarity, to safeguard humanity.

Geneva, 21 December 2023