Israel-Palestinian conflict is not just a conflict. It is a horrifying tale of human rights atrocities, the suffering of millions of Palestinians, and the heart-wrenching screams of poor children. It is a pity that the major and big powers of the world are not speaking up about the suffering of Palestinians. They have turned a blind eye towards them. Millions of Palestinians have been displaced. They have lost their homes, families, and everything that they built from scratch. It is very unfair and saddening. Buildings have been turned to rubble. Electricity and power supplies have been cut off. Goods for humanitarian aid are being blocked from entering Gaza. This is a clear war crime.
The question that arises here is whether civilians have any protection under international law. Most of the victims in the Gaza war are civilians. Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands have been displaced and forced to leave their homes. Many are injured as well. People are deprived of food, water, and other basic supplies and necessities. In international law, the protection of civilians is a high-priority and fundamental principle during any conflict or war. According to Israel, its actions are justified the acts of terror do not violate international law. Moreover, Israel has support from major powers such as the US. President Biden draws a distinction between the actions of Hamas which he terms as “terrorism” and Israel’s bombing of Gaza as “self-defense.” The US has been a constant supplier of military aid and weapons to Israel.
According to the UN charter and customary international law, a nation has the right to defend itself from an armed attack. An attack must be met with a proportionate response. Instead of retaliating against a larger group of people for the casualties caused, it should concentrate on militarily defeating its armed opponents. It is forbidden for a battling party to launch attacks that target both military and civilian targets without making a distinction. Attacks would typically be prohibited at places like stores, hospitals, schools, and places of worship, which are regarded as civilian installations. If a civilian site is struck by an operation like an Israeli air strike, it could still be considered a war crime even if it wasn’t specifically targeted. The 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention forbids the use of starvation as a weapon of war. According to article 57 of International Humanitarian Law, the discrimination principle calls for the differentiation between civilians and combatants, and the principle of precaution prohibits placing military objectives close to the area of non-combatants. Israel disobeyed and violated these principles by bombing places all over Gaza. The US has been a constant supplier of military aid and weapons to Israel.
However, it is abundantly clear that the International Community’s inaction has allowed the Israeli government to carry out these actions. In addition to failing to control the situation so that it would be advantageous for both Israel and Palestine, the United States has also failed to prevent it from destabilizing, igniting conflict, and resulting in a sizable number of fatalities. This has been especially true because the US has been unable to put into place an appropriate strategy for this conflict. Not only the US, the European Union also is very ignorant of the human rights violations committed by Israel and has failed to put into effect an effective international policy. This evidently and openly shows that international law is being ignored in the Gaza war. No major power or any international organization is making Israel accountable for its alarming and terrifying actions. The innocent civilians continue to suffer. Poor children continue to see the bloodshed. All hope is gone. The international community needs to wake up in support of Palestine. The psychological trauma being caused by the war upon the minds of innocent civilians can not be put into words. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety issues, and depression can be seen in the victims.
It is very saddening to see how the civilians and non-combatants have to pay the price every time and suffer the most as has been seen in the Russia-Ukraine war, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, and now the Israel-Palestine conflict. The human toll is incalculable, and it requires our focus, compassion, and dedication. The experiences of those impacted, the refugees yearning to return, and the kids who have only ever known war urge us to be resilient in our pursuit of justice.
Fatima Mazhar is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in International Relations at National Defense University in Islamabad. Her areas of interest encompass international peace and conflict studies, diplomacy, and humanitarian affairs.