26 countries that are signatories of the Geneva Convention examined the question of the protection of civilians in the Palestinian-occupied territories, and signed a ten-point declaration reaffirming the obligations of both Israelis and Palestinians under the international humanitarian law.
Negotiated in the aftermath of World War II and ratified by 196 countries, the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols lay down the standards of international humanitarian law in time of war and occupation. They aim to limit the barbarity of war and protect those who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war), the International Committee of the Red Cross explains on its website.
On July 8, 2014, Israel launched an offensive on Gaza with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas. During this offensive Israeli strikes killed more than 2,000 people in the Gaza strip, according to the United Nations the majority being civilians.
The recent declaration does not create new obligations but reiterates some, such as the “need to fully respect the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law”, to prohibit “indiscriminate” and “disproportionate” attacks, the targeting of civilian objects, such as schools, or placing military objective in the “vicinity of civilians and civilian objects”. The text also emphasizes the signatories’ “deep concern” about “the impact of the continued occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the closure of the Gaza strip”. The signatories ”reaffirm the illegality of Israeli settlements.”
Swiss ambassador Paul Fivat told reporters, “This is a signal and we can hope that words count, and the parties will be, again, reminded of their obligations.”
The meeting was harshly criticized by Israel, who boycotted it, as did other nations such as the United States and Canada, which could limit its impact.
[The Jerusalem Post]