Gaza highlights need for new international commitment on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas was by far the leading cause of deaths and injuries to civilians during the conflict in Gaza and Israel in July and August.
The situation has been intolerable for civilians. Bombardment and shelling has damaged schools and hospitals, and destroyed vital infrastructure. Beyond the immediate suffering, the long-term costs will be severe.
The following data is drawn from an United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs situation report, dated 5 August 2014.
- 1,814 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 1,312 civilians, of whom 408 are children;
- 67 Israelis killed, including 64 soldiers, two civilians and one foreign national;
- 9,536 people have been injured, including 2,877 children;
- 520,000 people may be displaced, staying in emergency shelters or with host families;
- 65,000 displaced people had their homes destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
The situation in Gaza is but the latest illustration of the predictable humanitarian impact of heavy explosive weapon use in a populated area. The on-going situations in Syria and Ukraine also illustrate this pattern of harm, as have the shelling and bombardment of populated areas in Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and elsewhere in recent years.
The international community must do all in its power to prevent and reduce harm to civilians. To that end, the UN Secretary-General, has repeatedly called on States to avoid the use in densely populated areas of explosive weapons with a wide area impact.
The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) for an international commitment to curb the use, in populated areas, of explosive weapons with wide area effects.
As non-governmental organisations working to strengthen the protection of civilians, INEW is calling on states to speak out in the UN Security Council in support of this recommendation.
Already around 40 states have voiced concern about the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
The time has come for states to make a clear collective commitment on this vital humanitarian question.
Against the background of Gaza, Syria, Ukraine and other conflict situations, stopping the bombardment and shelling of towns and cities should be made a priority.