UK charities urge new government to address Gaza catastrophe in first 100 days

UK charities urge new government to address Gaza catastrophe in first 100 days
Twenty human rights groups set out the first steps the new government should take towards the Gaza war, while raising concerns over war crimes.
3 min read
09 July, 2024
Some 21,000 Palestinian children are missing in Gaza, rights groups have said [GETTY]

A collective of UK charities have urged Prime Minister Keir Starmer's new government to take immediate action to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and to reset foreign policy towards Palestine.

Twenty NGOs and human rights groups on Monday set out the first steps the government should take towards the Gaza war and the occupied West Bank as part of  Starmer's first 100 days in office.

The organisations, which include some operating in Gaza such as Action For Humanity and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), have called on the government to uphold international law and to use its diplomatic leverage to prevent further atrocities and casualties in the nine-month-long war.

In an open letter, the organisations highlighted the humanitarian catastrophe facing Gaza's 2.3 million population and the uptick in violence in the occupied West Bank, as well as possible war crimes.

"It is vital that the new Government take all lawful measures to ensure compliance with international law, address the occupation, prevent atrocity crimes and centre the protection of civilians," the letter said.

It set out five 'immediate actions' the government should take in its first 100 days of office, the typical time frame applied to a new British government for its initial pledges.

These include using "diplomatic influence" to secure an immediate and permanent ceasefire, halt arms transfers to Israel and make a parliamentary statement "signalling a fundamental policy shift" regarding the UK’s approach to international law.

It also states a set of short-term and long-term actions Starmer’s administration should take to address Israel’s blockade of Gaza and to increase humanitarian funding.

Prime Minister Starmer entered office following a landslide victory for his centre-left Labour Party in the general election on 4 July.

He is expected to maintain similar policies towards the Middle East as the previous Conservative government and has already had phone calls with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.

The humanitarian organisations' letter comes as the Israeli military orders further forced evacuations of Gaza’s population in the northern Gaza Strip as fighting intensifies in Gaza City.

Patients and staff at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital were forced to evacuate on Sunday as attacks reached the hospital vicinity.

Israel’s forced displacement of some 90 percent of the population has been highlighted as a possible breach of international war law by human rights groups.

The letter expresses concern over the "plausible risk of genocide being perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza", and notes South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of genocidal acts.

It states that the UK has "a moral and ethical responsibility to protect populations at risk of atrocity crimes, in addition to well-established legal obligations to prevent the commission of atrocity crimes, including the crime of genocide."

Nicola Banks, advocacy lead of Action for Humanity, one of the letter’s signatories, said that the government must take the genocide risk as stated by the ICJ "extremely seriously".

"The devastating number of Palestinian civilians killed, the physical destruction of hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure, and the ongoing denial of life-saving assistance demand urgent attention that can no longer be kicked down the road," Banks said.