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World leaders put on notice over Gaza, amid “war on children”

Introduction by Croakey: The delivery of aid by airdrops and sea routes into Gaza is a distraction that fails to address the underlying cause of the crisis that is starving children and others to death, human rights and humanitarian organisations have warned.

Their joint statement, published in full below, calls for governments to prioritise ceasefire and ground-based humanitarian aid, and warns that some of the countries that recently conducted airdrops are also providing weapons to Israeli authorities: the United States, United Kingdom and France.

“States cannot leverage aid to circumvent their international responsibilities and duties under international law, including the prevention of atrocity crimes,” says the statement.

Meanwhile, Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, says the number of children reported killed in just over four months in Gaza is higher than the number of children killed in four years of wars around the world combined.

“This war is a war on children. It is a war on their childhood and their future,” he said on 13 March.

Lazzarini also condemned an Israeli Defence Force attack on 13 March on one of the very few remaining UNRWA food distribution centres in southern Gaza, which killed at least one UNRWA staff member and injured another 22.

“Every day, we share the coordinates of all our facilities across the Gaza Strip with parties to the conflict. The Israeli Army received the coordinates including of this facility yesterday,” he said.

“Since this war began, attacks against UN facilities, convoys and personnel have become commonplace in blatant disregard to international humanitarian law. I am calling once again for an independent inquiry into these violations and the need for accountability.”

Since the war began five months ago, at least 165 UNRWA team members have been killed while in the line of duty, and more than 400 people killed while seeking shelter under the UN flag.

Meanwhile, Israel reportedly plans to tell 1.4 million displaced Palestinians trapped in the southern city of Rafah to seek shelter in central Gaza ahead of a planned military offensive into the south.


Gaza: airdrops and sea routes are no alternative to aid delivery by land

Statement by 25 Non Government Organisations, published by Amnesty International

Human rights and humanitarian organisations present on the ground in the Gaza Strip have reiterated since the start of the current escalation that the only way to meet the unprecedented humanitarian needs in the enclave is to secure an immediate and permanent ceasefire and to ensure full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access through all land crossings.

States cannot hide behind airdrops and efforts to open a maritime corridor to create the illusion that they are doing enough to support the needs in Gaza: their primary responsibility is to prevent atrocity crimes from unfolding and apply effective political pressure to end the relentless bombardment and the restrictions which prevent the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

For months, every person in the Gaza Strip has been surviving with crisis-level hunger, in the largest proportion of any population in food security crisis ever recorded by the Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Phase Classification (IPC).

Families have been drinking unsafe water for months and spend days without eating. The health system completely collapsed amid disease outbreaks and severe injuries due to constant bombardment. At least 20 children have recently died from severe malnutrition, dehydration and related diseases.

As each day witnesses an acceleration in the deterioration of the food, water and health situation, more deaths from starvation and disease are to follow if humanitarian access continues to be impeded by Israeli authorities. The UN has warned that famine is imminent.

While States have recently ramped up airdrops of aid in Gaza, humanitarian professionals stress that this method of aid delivery alone has in no way the capacity to meet the massive needs in the enclave. 2.3 million people living in a catastrophic state of survival cannot be fed and healed by airdrops.

Airdrops are unable to provide the volumes of assistance that can be transported by land. While a convoy of five trucks has the capacity to carry about 100 tons of lifesaving assistance, recent airdrops delivered only a few tons of aid each.

Airdrops can also be extremely dangerous to the lives of civilians seeking aid: there have already been reports of at least five persons killed from free falling aid packages in Gaza.

Humanitarian assistance cannot be improvised: it must be delivered by professional teams, with expertise in organizing distributions and providing direct lifesaving services.

Aid deliveries need to have a human face: not only to be able to properly assess the needs of affected people, but also to restore hope and dignity to an already traumatised and desperate population.

After enduring five months of continuous bombardments and dehumanising conditions, children, women and men in Gaza have the right to more than meagre charity dropped from the sky.

While any humanitarian aid arriving to Gaza is welcome, transportation by air or by sea should be seen as complementary to land transportation and not as a substitute as it cannot in any circumstances replace the assistance delivered by road.

It is important to note that some of the States who have recently conducted airdrops are also providing weapons to Israeli authorities, namely the US, UK and France.

States cannot leverage aid to circumvent their international responsibilities and duties under international law, including the prevention of atrocity crimes.

For these States to meet their international law obligations they must halt all arms transfers that risk being used in international crimes, as well as implement meaningful measures to enforce an immediate ceasefire, unrestricted humanitarian access and accountability for perpetrators.

Third States recently announced efforts to open a maritime corridor from Cyprus, including the establishment of a floating port on Gaza shore that will not be fully operational before several weeks.

Families are starving and do not have the time for offshore and ashore infrastructure to be constructed: saving their lives requires immediately allowing the humanitarian trucks full of food and medicine whose entry in Gaza is currently being withheld.

Moreover, shipments from this dock to distribution points around Gaza will suffer from the same obstacles that aid convoys from Rafah are currently facing: persistent insecurity, high rate of access denial by Israeli forces, and excessive waits at Israeli checkpoints.

Therefore, its establishment will not substantially change the humanitarian catastrophic situation, unless it is combined with an immediate ceasefire and full, unimpeded access to all areas of the Gaza Strip.

There are also concerns about the lack of transparency concerning which entity will be responsible for the infrastructure and security of aid delivery ashore: States must ensure that the maritime corridor does not legitimize a prolonged Israeli ground military occupation of the strip by instrumentalizing the necessity of aid delivery.

We recognise that every aid is needed in this dire context but alert on the potential devastating consequences of creating dangerous precedents leading to the degradation of humanitarian access through land and prolongation of hostilities.

The appropriate humanitarian response to the massive needs in Gaza is unrestricted access for the aid and professional humanitarian personnel that have been prepositioned for months on the Egyptian side of the border.

So far, the possibility for 2.3 million people in Gaza to eat, be healed, and have a roof over their head has been at the sole discretion of the Israeli authorities: this situation cannot remain unchallenged. Humanitarian organisations have the logistical capacity to provide for Palestinians in Gaza: what is missing is the political will from State actors to enforce access.

What humanitarian organisations are expecting from Third States is to urgently use their leverage towards an immediate ceasefire and to compel Israeli authorities to stop their deliberate blockade of lifesaving aid in all parts of the Gaza Strip, including through the full opening and lifting of restrictions on Rafah, Kerem Shalom/Karam Abu Salem, Erez/Beit Hanoun and Karni crossings.

We recall that an immediate and permanent ceasefire is the only condition to allow for the colossal increase in the flow of humanitarian aid needed to alleviate the suffering of 2.3 million people in the Gaza Strip.

Signatories: Action Aid International; American Friends Service Committee; Amnesty International; Association of Italian NGOs; CCFD-Terre Solidaire; CISS – Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud; DanChurch Aid; Danish House in Palestine; Danish Refugee Council; HelpAge International; Humanity & Inclusion – Handicap International; IM Swedish Development Partner; International Federation for Human Rights; INTERSOS; Medical Aid for Palestinians; Mennonite Central Committee; Médecins du Monde International Network / Doctors of the World; Médecins Sans Frontières France/Doctors Without Borders France; Oxfam; Plan International; Première Urgence Internationale; Secours Islamique France; Terre des Hommes Italy; War Child Alliance; Welfare Association.


Further updates

See the 12 March update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Previously at Croakey: