Over the last few days, we have witnessed horrific escalations of violence unfold in the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza and the West Bank and Israel. Though the situation is still unfolding, as a movement for health justice – working towards guaranteeing health through peace – we are amplifying calls for donations for vital medical humanitarian aid, and directly calling for the UK government to act to prevent further loss of life, and bring about a just end to violence.
Since the start of its attack on Saturday, Hamas fighters have killed at least 1200 according to Israeli authorities, wounded a further 2400, and taken a number of civilian hostages. The immediate response from Israel has been an escalation of violence against Palestinian civilians in Gaza: Israeli airstrikes have now killed 1354 Palestinians, including 326 children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. More than 6000 people have been injured, and over 338,000 people have been displaced from their homes according to Medical Aid for Palestinians. The Israeli government has stated its intention to cut off food, water and energy to Gaza – in effect subjecting civilians to collective punishment. This year was already one of the most deadly for Palestinians in Gaza, and these latest actions are an extension of years of Israel’s illegal blockade that has already caused so much suffering.
We mourn all loss of life in this escalation of the decades-long ongoing violence, which has caused countless deaths and will further impact on civilians’ health for years to come. Harming civilians is a crime against international law, and we unequivocally condemn the war crimes committed in this conflict including the targeting and killing of civilians.
An understanding of the situation in Gaza and a path to peace cannot be achieved without situating the current violence within its context, and we unequivocally condemn the decades of slow violence against Palestinians by means of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, illegal occupation and settler-colonialism. This violence has long been enabled by the international community’s silence on Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and apartheid. It is civilians who are paying the price now, as they always have.
To end the bloodshed, it is paramount to address Israel’s illegal occupation and the ongoing siege of Gaza that it began in 2007, which has both greatly limited resources available within Gaza and prevented Palestinians from being able to leave Gaza to seek treatment elsewhere, which has resulted in the deaths of numerous patients in recent years. The current bombing is the fifth time in fifteen years that Israel has launched a major military operation against Gaza, killing hundreds, sometimes thousands of Palestinians, each time.
As part of our commitment to health justice, we call for an end to the bombardment and illegal siege on Gaza before the already-catastrophic toll on life and health worsens. All parties, including the international community, must do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed, and all perpetrators of war crimes and violations of human rights must be held to account.
Furthermore, it is high time that the UK government ends its longstanding and egregious complicity in these crimes. Israel’s crimes have been granted impunity far too long already and it is deeply disturbing that British government ministers have made statements seemingly condoning Israel’s declared intention to cut off food, water and electricity from Gaza, which is a war crime. Israel is also massing troops in preparation for a ground invasion of Gaza, which all should oppose.
As a UK organisation campaigning for a world in which everyone is able to access their human right to health, we call for the UK government to:
- Do all it can to apply pressure on Israel to immediately halt all attacks on Gaza including air strikes and ground invasion, and to end its blockade of essential services
- Implement an immediate two-way military embargo
- Lobby Israel to end its siege of Gaza and dismantle the Apartheid wall that it has constructed both in Gaza and in the West Bank
- Work to ensure that Israel recognises the inalienable right of return of Palestinian refugees, as well as the right of all Palestinians to live with equal rights and dignity
- Respect the right to boycott and abandon its legislation to outlaw Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a non-violent movement which seeks to pressure Israel to comply with international law in the face of decades of inaction by the international community.
As health workers in the UK, you can help the situation on the ground in Gaza, where hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of serious injuries. If you can, please give an urgent donation to the humanitarian relief efforts of Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).
The UK has a responsibility to protect Palestinians against atrocities in Gaza. Urgent action is needed to save lives – email your MP now using MAP’s online tool.