Palestine has acknowledged the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) and committed to action against it.
Palestine has spoken against the use of EWIPA at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in 2014 describing the devastating impacts of the use of EWIPA in Gaza.
As a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Palestine aligned with World Humanitarian Summit Core Commitments to ‘Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity’ in May 2016, including the commitment “to promote and enhance the protection of civilians and civilian objects, especially in the conduct of hostilities, for instance by working to prevent civilian harm resulting from the use of wide-area explosive weapons in populated areas, and by sparing civilian infrastructure from military use in the conduct of military operations.”
Palestine participated in the round of consultations for a political declaration on the use EWIPA in 2021, when it raised the following points:
- It opposed the use of qualifier “can” in the title and throughout the text, including but not limited to 1.2, 1.3, 1.8, where humanitarian impacts are described, as well as the chapeau for Section 3.
- Palestine argued “with wide area effects” should be removed from the title and most places in the text, including in 2.2.
- It called for the re-insertion of destruction of hospitals in 1.2, and suggested including other vulnerable groups in 1.8 (i.e. children).
- Palestine supported including reverberating effects. It also suggested changing the phrase “in armed conflict” to “during and after armed conflict” in the chapeau to part B, to better reflect the reverberating effects of the use of these weapons.
- Palestine welcomed the inclusion of the environment in 1.3, and it called for the deletion of “natural” in reference to the environment, as it doesn’t reflect the contemporary understanding of the relationship between humans and the environment.
- Palestine agreed that Section 2 needed to be strengthened.
- The United Kingdom (UK) argued that there is no obligation to hold to account those responsible for violations of international law, and suggested replacing this with “the importance of holding to account” instead. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) objected to the UK’s proposal, noting that there is an obligation to hold perpetrators accountable for serious violations of the law and arguing that this reference must be underscored and retained. Palestine likewise echoed that “obligation” was the correct and appropriate word in this respect.
- Palestine shared concerns by Switzerland, that raised concern that the original draft’s paragraph 4.5, on humanitarian access, was deleted entirely in this draft. It asked that the paragraph be re-added and moved to Section 2, as it refers to a legal obligation established under IHL. Palestine supported this.
- Regarding paragraph 3.6, Palestine suggested adding “urgent” before “dissemination.”
- Palestine supported the proposal by Switzerland to add two additional paragraphs to Section 4. Those paragraphs include 1) “In cases of allegations of violations of IHL, seek clarification and ensure the facts are established, including through fact-finding mechanisms;” and 2) “Use domestic and international measures to hold to account those responsible for serious violations of IHL and collect, compile, retain, and preserve relevant information to support the efforts to hold those responsible accountable.”
- Palestine stressed the imperative of a clear commitment in 3.3 that would meaningfully improve the protection of civilians from the grave harms caused by the use of EWIPA.
- Palestine agreed when New Zealand said the phrase “when the effects may be expected to extend beyond a military objective” is unhelpful, highlighting that the inclusion of the phrase “with wide area effects” already covers the substantive concern.
- Palestine echoed WILPF’s points, suggesting that “restricting” should be changed to “ending”—or at least to “avoiding”—the use of EWIPA and should establish a clear presumption against the use of EWIPA.
- Palestine echoed the Holy See’s suggestion that, in both Section 1 and Section 4, language be added to broaden the scope of harm accounted for when collecting data. In 4.2, for example, the Holy See suggested the following language: “… involving the use of explosive weapons, as well as their impacts on schools, hospitals, places of worship, and other critical civilian infrastructure.”
- Palestine called for data collection on reverberating effects and types of weapons used. It also suggested disaggregation by disability status.
- Palestine said the widest possible sharing of data should be encouraged, so “where appropriate” in Section 1 and “where possible and appropriate” in Section 4 should be removed.
- With respect to 3.4, Palestine echoed New Zealand’s suggestion that states should not simply commit to “take into account” the harmful effects of explosive weapons, but rather should make every effort to limit that harm.
- Palestine welcomed proposals to recognise efforts of civil society organisations and UN entities, including the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in addition to existing references to the UN Security Council.
- Palestine called for an open, transparent, and inclusive follow-up process. It also suggested greater specificity regarding the follow-up process and its purpose, which should be to review the humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons and assess the operationalisation and universalisation of the declaration—not to simply review compliance with IHL. Palestine suggested annual meetings.
Palestine also made a written contribution to the consultations with the following comments and suggestions:
- Title: Replace “that can arise from” with “arising from” and delete qualifier “with wide area effects”.
- 1.1: Delete qualifier “with wide area effects”.
- 1.2: Delete “can” before “have a devastating impact and reinsert the reference to hospitals
- 1.3: Delete “can” in the second and fourth lines and replace by more assertive language.
- 1.4: Delete “together”, Reinstate the term “explosive remnants of war” instead of the new term “unexploded ordnance”, Delete “can” before “impede the return of displaced persons and cause casualties long after hostilities have ended”.
- 1.6: After “in populated areas” in first sentence, add “but others still fail to do so”.
- 1.7: It proposed including also a call for data collection on the reverberating effects of
EWIPA, as well as on the types of weapons used, and also propose that the data be
disaggregated by disability status in addition to sex and age, delete “where appropriate”.
- 1.8: Replace “that can arise from” and “that can result from” with “arising from” and
“resulting from”, respectively, delete qualifier “with wide area effects”, include other vulnerable groups in the list of those who should be empowered and whose voices should be amplified, including children, replace “urban warfare” with “populated areas”.
- 2.1: Replace “recall” with “reaffirm”, Add “of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” after “violations”.
- 2.2: Delete qualifier “with wide area effects”
- 2.4: It proposed to recognise also the work of civil society organisations and UN bodies, it supported proposals to add a paragraph 2.4 bis on humanitarian assistance
- Section 3, Châpeau: replace “in armed conflict” with “during and after armed conflict”, replace “improving” with “strengthening”, replace “that can arise from” with “arising from”, delete qualifier “with wide area effects”.
- 3.1: Delete “where necessary”, add “and civilian objects” after “civilians”.
- 3.2: Add “and avoid civilian harm” at the end of the sentence.
- 3.3: It considered this paragraph to contain the core commitment of the declaration, and as
such it should be the first paragraph of this section, followed by 3.1 and 3.2. However, the paragraph must be strengthened in order to have the greatest impact in preventing civilian harm: a. Replace “restricting” with “ending” or at the very least “avoiding”, b. Delete qualifier “when the effects may be expected to extend beyond a military objective”.
- 3.4: Replace “take into account” with “take all practicable measures that will enable them
to fully assess”
- 3.6: Disseminating IHL is already a legal obligation—hence, this paragraph should add
value by committing States to facilitate not only the dissemination and understanding
of IHL but also the operative commitments in this political declaration. It also suggested the replacement of “facilitate the dissemination and understanding” with “urgently disseminate and facilitate the understanding”.
- 4.1: add “and humanitarian impact analysis” after “tactical expertise”
- 4.2: delete “where appropriate”; add “and civilian objects” after “on civilians”; delete qualifier “with wide area effects; it strongly supports Switzerland’s proposed additions of a 4.2 bis and 4.2ter
- 4.3: Replace “support” with “facilitate”; delete “with wide area effects”.
- 4.4: The last sentence regarding support to post-conflict stabilisation should become a
separate paragraph as it is not a type of victim assistance; moreover, replace “stabilisation” with “recovery and durable solutions”.
- Previous 4.5: The provision on supporting humanitarian relief efforts should be reinserted either here or in Section 2
- 4.5: delete “as appropriate”; replace “can arise from” with “arising from”; delete “with wide area effects”;
- 4.6: replace “on a regular basis” with “annually”; add “and universalisation” after “review the implementation”; add “its implementation and” after “strengthen”; delete “with wide area effects”; text should emphasise an inclusive approach to such meetings, for endorsing States, those yet to endorse, UN agencies, international organisations and civil society.
 Permanent Mission of Palestine to the United Nations (2014). ‘Statement to the February 2014 UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict’. http://www.peacewomen.org/sites/default/files/statement_-_palestine_0.pdf.
 Agenda for Humanity. ‘Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’. https://agendaforhumanity.org/stakeholder/233.html.
 Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will (2021). ‘Report on the March 2021 Consultations on a Political Declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas’. https://reachingcriticalwill.org/news/latest-news/15213-report-on-the-march-2021-consultations-on-a-political-declaration-on-the-use-of-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas.
 Permanent Mission of Palestine to the United Nations (2020). ‘Proposals on the Draft Political Declaration Circulated by Ireland’. https://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/ewipa/declaration/documents/Palestine-March2021.pdf.