APN Statement: Prevent a Humanitarian Disaster in Gaza

As Shabbat approaches and Israeli forces prepare for a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip, we again share our horror at the brutal attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on October 7th. We also add our voice to President Biden’s and Secretary of Defense Austin’s call on Israel to obey international law and to do everything possible to avoid further civilian injury and death.

Israel has the right to protect itself. The government of Israel has the right – indeed the duty – to make sure that its citizens will never again suffer the kind of savage slaughter committed by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. To do that, sadly, Israel must act militarily.

But even in times of war, and even when others refuse to do so, we must remember our shared humanity and we must value every human life. 

As a sovereign state and a democracy, Israel is bound by the principles of proportionality and distinction set by international law to minimize harm to civilians.

In addition to more than two million Palestinian civilians who reside in the Gaza Strip, there are also more than a hundred Israeli and international hostages, most of them civilians, held by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. Israel should make every possible effort to keep all civilians out of harm's way. While we realize that harm to civilians in war is all but inevitable, we urge Israel to do its utmost to spare and protect noncombatants.

Israeli authorities, with the help of the United States, the United Nations, Egypt, and other stakeholders, should take steps now to avoid a humanitarian disaster. Such a disaster is now in the making. 

Several initiatives have been raised in recent days to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including emergency shipments of food, medicine and other essentials, the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to enable safe passage for Palestinian civilians to temporarily leave the Gaza Strip, and the establishment of “no bomb zones” inside the Gaza Strip, which would serve as safe havens for civilians. 

The world is still grappling with the shock and horror of the unprecedented carnage among Israeli civilians a week ago. Hamas and PIJ committed horrific war crimes. These atrocities cannot justify further war crimes.

These last days have been full of bloodshed and tears, and the near future holds more of the same. But the tears and the deaths of Palestinian civilians will not bring our families and our friends back, neither those who were killed nor those who are being held as captives in Gaza.

The cycle of violence and vengeance is such that the pain and sorrow of Israeli civilians turns into the pain and sorrow of Gaza’s Palestinians, and vice versa - over and over again.  We all, Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, and the international community, must work to end this cycle.