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Oxfam: World must suspend arms sales to protect civilians

Oxfam: World must suspend arms sales to protect civilians as Gaza violence escalates again

22 August, 2014

As the New Zealand Government prepares to ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty, and after ceasefire talks collapsed and violence erupted yet again in Gaza yesterday, Oxfam is calling on all states to immediately suspend transfers of arms or ammunition to Israel and any Palestinian armed group while there is serious risk that they could be used to violate international humanitarian law.

The agency said the widespread killing of civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure over the past six weeks is the worst it has seen in 20 years of working in Gaza. More than 1,500 civilians in Gaza - including more than 480 children - and three civilians in Israel have been killed so far, and it is estimated that billions of dollars of damage has been caused to vital water, sanitation, health services and homes in Gaza.

The latest escalation in fighting is the sixth time in the past six weeks that a temporary ceasefire has ended without both sides agreeing to a lasting resolution, and has led to more civilian casualties in Gaza in the past 24 hours. Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said: "Now more than ever, the international community should exert maximum diplomatic pressure, including suspending arms and ammunitions transfers, to show that the world will not tolerate the violence and civilian suffering for a moment longer."

States and peoples have the legitimate right to use arms for the protection of their citizens against external attack, but only on the condition that their use of force complies with the principles of necessity and proportionality, as well as with international humanitarian and human rights law. The conduct of both the Government of Israel and of Palestinian armed groups raises numerous concerns of violations of international law.

Oxfam is a staunch believer in, and long time campaigner for the Arms Trade Treaty—signed by 118 states—which requires the prohibition of arms transfers where the supplier has knowledge that the arms will be used to commit “attacks on civilian objects or civilians.”

The New Zealand Government is set to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty in the next few weeks.

“This humanitarian crisis is being fuelled by weapons. Suspending arms and ammunition transfers is vital to ensure no more civilians are harmed. This conflict cannot be resolved militarily. Civilians on both sides deserve an enduring ceasefire and a credible, inclusive peace process,” Pandey said.

Notes:

Israel voted in favour of adopting the Arms Trade Treaty. Palestine, as a non-member observer of the UN, is not eligible to vote, although it participated in the negotiation of the Treaty.

ENDS

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