Palestinian Israeli conflict

Political solutions needed to halt violence between Israel, Gaza militants: ICRC

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Political steps are needed to bolster the fragile cease-fire deal which has halted days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, the Middle East director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday.

The recent flare-up was the worst fighting between Israel and Gaza militant groups since Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers fought an 11-day war last year, adding to the destruction and misery that have plagued blockaded Gaza for years.

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In a statement, ICRC’s Fabrizio Carboni said each new round of violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel “sparks a crisis of hope” as the fighting revives and creates new trauma on both sides.

“Only political steps can solve the seemingly intractable cycles and the humanitarian crises that accompany them,” he warned. “Those steps must be intensified.”

Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)

Carboni warned that the impact on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of people living through the latest fighting is one of the most significant consequences of each new round of this protracted armed conflict.

In conflict zones, one in five people experiences mental health problems after the conflict has ended.

“For the last 14 months, and since the end of the 10-day escalation of May 2021, people on both sides of the Gaza fence were left with a sense of edginess and uncertainty,” said Carboni. “It feels like everyone is sitting in some great waiting room, in between escalations, before the inevitable next tragedy comes.”

“This time last year, I was in Gaza. I stood next to a pile of rubble that Jamal and his family had once called home before the May 2021 escalation.”

“Homeless and fearful, they then faced an uncertain future, adding their names to the countless lives consumed by the consequences of the most prolonged military occupation in modern history.”

Carboni said, over the years, fatigue and frustration have set in, particularly among the younger generation.

“Their profound sense of hopelessness and inability to see a better future greatly concerns me, as we all count on them to chart a better course,” he said. “With the shift of international attention to Ukraine, lingering legacies of COVID-19, pressures of climate change, and the ripple effects of high inflation on the daily cost of living in communities, we are collectively doing little to lighten their load.”

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) provides guardrails for the legal and humanitarian consequences of conflict.

Carboni said if all parties worked within the framework of IHL, everyone would gain.

“The goal is to ensure that civilian suffering during the escalation is kept to a minimum,” he added. “We continue to engage with all sides on this important issue.”

“The ICRC welcomes the ceasefire, but even if it endures -and I very much hope that it does - people’s need for assistance and support remain.”

“Eight in ten people in Gaza were already reliant on some form of humanitarian aid. This aid and support are important, and they can help prevent a total collapse in the short term.”

He added: “Nevertheless, only political solutions can bring sustainable improvement.”

Over a three-day period this month, 43 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement. Israel said some of the dead were killed by misfired rockets.

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