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Unprecedented Humanitarian Catastrophe in Gaza and Calls for a Ceasefire to End Civilian Suffering

November 9, 2023

Katrina Sriranpong Vancouver Lawyer

Amnesty International, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, as well as the heads of eighteen United Nations agencies and non-profit organisations have joined in a collective voice to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. They described the killings of both Israelis and Palestinians over the last month as “horrific.” More than 1200 innocent civilians were killed by Hamas on October 7, 2023 in Southern Israel. To date, more than 11,000 innocent civilians and humanitarian aid workers have been killed in Gaza due to Israel’s relentless bombardment and indiscriminate bombings. In Gaza, a child is killed every ten minutes. More than 4,500 of the casualties in Gaza are children and this number continues to climb. I am deeply concerned about the Palestinian civilians who played no role in the Hamas attack. Israel has the right to defend itself but genocide is not self-defence.

Sriranpong Vancouver Lawyer

Save the Children argues that children are paying the highest price for a conflict they had no part in creating. The number of casualties in Gaza is unprecedented and is considered a “text-book case of genocide” according to the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Craig Mokhiber, who resigned in protest of the United Nations “failing” to act.

Israel has blocked the entrance of goods, water, food, and fuel for more than 2.2 million people in Gaza (approximately half the population in Gaza are children), which leaves them struggling to survive. The suffering is magnified by the shortage of medical supplies such as anesthetics. Surgeries and amputations are being performed on children without any anesthetic. Numerous hospitals, United Nations schools, and refugee camps have already been destroyed by indiscriminate bombs. There are serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, by all parties involved. Canada must demand that Israel meet its commitments under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law.

In a statement by Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres, dated November 9, 2023, they publicly stated, “This morning around 10:30 am our teams treated a paramedic who was shot while inside an ambulance. Since 11 am this morning, Israel military vehicles have blocked ambulances from enter the hospitals, forcing them to refer patients to hospitals further away. Last night a soldier fired at the emergency unit of the hospital, hitting the wall in full view of our colleagues who were standing outside. Today, our team witnessed Israeli forces fire at the entrance of the hospital, with bullets hitting the wall directly above the door. Hospitals are not targets and must remain safe spaces. Medical care must not be impeded. We call on the Israel military to stop firing on hospitals and to stop their military vehicles from blocking ambulances and medical staff from reaching health care facilities.”

An immediate ceasefire would end the unlawful attacks by all parties and stop the increasing death tolls in Gaza, protect innocent civilians including the children and allow aid agencies to transport life-saving medical equipment and supplies to Gaza and alleviate the immense human suffering we have witnessed. A ceasefire would also provide opportunities to negotiate for the release of hostages and to investigate the allegations of war crimes committed by Israel against the innocent civilians of Gaza as documented by Human Rights Watch. As there are reports of war crimes being committed, Canada must not provide any support in this conflict or else we risk being complicit in those crimes.

All parties to this conflict must respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, which includes protecting civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools as well as allow aid into Gaza.

I believe dismantling Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on Palestinians is the only solution to ensure the security of Israel. Canada must work with international partners to address the root cause of the conflict and work in the development of long term solutions to ensure security and prosperity for all parties. Israel’s engagement of disproportionate force against civilians as a war tactic is not new. We witnessed this in Lebanon, which gave rise to Hezbollah.

I believe grief, pain, and resentment will only encourage orphans and men to join Hamas in creating Hamas 2.0 when the genocide in Gaza is over. The people of Palestine have suffered decades of violence and human rights violations. As the Queen of Jordan stated, you can kill the combatants, but not the cause. Mr. Robert Pape, a professor of political science and director of the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats, argues that there is a “smarter way to eliminate Hamas.”

Mr. Pape offers compelling arguments and stated that Israel is likely already producing more terrorists than it is killing. He describes the term as “counterinsurgency mathematics,” in which the current generation of terrorists can be killed, only to be replaced by a new and larger generation of terrorist in the future. Instead, we need to be focusing on political operations that drive a wedge between the terrorist and the local population from which they come from. A long campaign of years of sustained selective military attacks against identified terrorists combined with political operations to give people hope of a better future is the only way. As such, the only viable way to separate Hamas from the local population is politically. Mr. Pape reiterates that “Israel’s strategic vision has been to go in heavily militarily first and then figure out the political process later. But this is likely to integrate Hamas and the local population together more and more and to produce more terrorists than it kills.”

As a Canadian citizen, it is our responsibility to stand against injustice and demand adherence to international laws and treaties that we have signed. Canada, by its inaction, is also accountable for what is happening to these children. We must advocate for accountability for any violations of international law and support the human rights and dignity of all people affected by the conflict. Ensuring a peaceful and stable Middle East is in the best interest for Canada and our global community. Please see below for an open letter from lawyers and legal scholars to the Canadian Government calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

I struggle to sleep at night knowing that a child is dying a horrific or painful death every ten minutes in Gaza. If this simple fact does not compel you to act in demanding a ceasefire from your government, then we have lost our social conscience and humanity. The following organisations are working on the ground in Gaza. Please consider donating to the organisations below to alleviate the suffering of so many children and innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. The conflict has impacted UNRWA significantly as over 90 of their aid workers have died in Gaza since early October.

Letter from Lawyers and Legal Scholars to the Canadian Government Calling for Gaza Ceasefire

“As lawyers and legal scholars, we find the Canadian government’s ongoing failure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza unconscionable and to be in shocking disregard of vital international humanitarian and human rights legal standards that Canada regularly champions around the world. Since Hamas’s killing of 1,400 Israelis on October 7, Israel’s assault on Gaza – where it is the Occupying Power [1] – has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians [2]. According to Save The Children, more children have been killed in Gaza in the last three weeks alone than the annual total of all the world’s conflicts combined since 2019 [3].

Your government has been clear and unequivocal in condemning the Hamas attacks – which have been widely decried as war crimes – and insisting that all hostages be released. We join you in that call. But the failure to be equally clear and unequivocal in condemning unlawful actions taken by Israel in response to those attacks is of deep concern and makes a mockery of the universal nature of human rights.

Apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by Israel in Gaza, as documented by human rights organizations and experts, include: attacks on homes, hospitals, schools, refugee camps, journalists, and other civilian targets without any legitimate military objective [4]; indiscriminate use of incendiary munitions such as white phosphorous [5]; collective punishment and use of starvation as a weapon of war via blockade [6]; and evacuation orders tantamount to forcible displacement and ethnic cleansing [7].

The current violence occurs in the context of Israel’s long-standing illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and denial of Palestinians’ jus cogens right to self-determination [8]. Systemic violations associated with the occupation include institutionalized practices of apartheid, torture, forcible transfer, persecution, land annexation, incommunicado and arbitrary detention, and mass killing of civilians (including children) with impunity [9]. As the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism pointed out in October 2022, the “escalating … daily gross violations of [Palestinians’] human rights” has been enabled internationally by the “suppression of legitimate criticisms of the State of Israel, a State that must, like any other in the United Nations system, be accountable for human rights violations that it perpetrates" [10]

UN Experts [11] as well as a group of 800 genocide and international law scholars [12] have warned that the situation in Gaza is now approaching genocide – which all Third Party States under the UN Genocide Convention have a duty to prevent [13]. We call on Canada to:

• honour its specific obligation to prevent genocide and its wider responsibility to act to uphold international human rights and humanitarian law in Gaza, including by immediately calling for a ceasefire; • support international mechanisms to address the underlying causes for violence, including by removing objections to the ongoing legal proceedings before the International Court of Justice and ongoing investigations by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; • cease any complicity with Israel’s violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories through provision of arms and other forms of trade; and • ensure that the freedom of expression in Canada to criticize Israel’s violations is upheld.

Prime Minister, your government’s actions will be judged by history, and are under scrutiny today. You have frequently passionately extolled the importance of foundational instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now is the moment to demonstrate the integrity of those assertions by taking the steps necessary to ensure that the rights of Palestinians are respected and upheld in full equality to the rest of humanity.”


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