Gaza pause 'totally insufficient' say France, Belgium humanitarian groups
The humanitarian pause agreed between Israel and Hamas is not at all enough to address the critical needs in the Gaza Strip, according to two NGOs in France and Belgium, Anadolu Agency reports.
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It will also allow in desperately needed aid into the Gaza Strip, where Israel has killed more than 14,800 Palestinians, including more than 10,000 women and children, and imposed a complete blockade of essential supplies, including food, water, medicines, fuel and electricity for more than six weeks.
Pierre Motin, Advocacy Manager of the Platform of French NGOs for Palestine, welcomed the humanitarian pause but stressed that it will not do anything for an actual resolution.
“We believe that only a durable ceasefire will bring about a sustained halt to the indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population in Gaza, and allow for the actual transfer of humanitarian aid that the Gazan population needs so desperately,” he told Anadolu.
Motin described the situation in Gaza as “catastrophic”, saying the besieged Palestinian enclave has been almost “completely razed to the ground”.
The situation in the West Bank is also critical, where more than 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, including at least nine killed Israeli settlers, he added.
For Arnaud Zacharie, Secretary-General of the National Centre for Development Cooperation, a Belgian NGO, the humanitarian pause in Gaza is “totally insufficient”.
If the airstrikes are to resume after the pause, this would only be like a small dose of oxygen and “will certainly not solve the problem structurally,” he said, calling for a complete ceasefire and the release of all hostages.
He also stressed the need to ensure respect for international law and relaunch a dialogue for a sustainable peace agreement that allows the two nations to live peacefully.
“One of the lessons of this current escalation of violence is that peace would not only benefit Palestinians … but also Israelis,” Zacharie said.
The French government and President Emmanuel Macron have expressed full support for Israel since the beginning of the conflict, while Belgian ministers have emphasised the need to end violence against civilians.
Motin, in this context, called on the French government to ensure that respect for international law remains at the core of its policy on the issue.
“We think that France must intensify its pressure on the Israeli government for a ceasefire,” he said, pointing out that the issue has also polarised French society.
Zacharie said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies in recent years have focused on securing the Israeli population by sacrificing peace, which must be revised.
He said Belgium, which will take over the rotating rotation of the EU soon, will be “quite proactive on the matter.”
“When it comes to the EU’s general tone, we must wait and see how other member states’ stances will evolve,” he added.
Contrast in government reactions
The way in which Belgian and French authorities have responded to social movements over the Palestine-Israel issue since 7 October has also been starkly different.
The conflict sparked a fierce political and social debate in France, with the government coming out to ban many pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
“We assess that France has seen major restrictions of freedom of association since 7 October, as shown by the ban imposed on several demonstrations,” said Motin.
However, he pointed out that, on 18 October, the French Council of State decided that protests cannot be prohibited systematically, and that regional authorities should decide whether there would be a risk of public disorder.
“We call on France not to undermine demonstrations that intend to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, as long as they respect the freedom of expression,” Motin said.
Respect for international law and human rights is “universal”, that must be more important than any divisions in a society, he added.
“We believe that our activities, which are based only on the application of international law and focus on the protection of civilians in Israel and in Palestine, transcend those divisions in our society,” said Motin.
“Many French people, although shocked by the attacks on 7 October, “seem to think that the relentless airstrikes on a civilian population in the Gaza Strip are not acceptable,” he added.
Over in Belgium, there has been significantly less tension over the issue.
Zacharie said there has been polarisation within Belgian civil society, “but the compass of Belgian civil society is international law.”
People’s relations with authorities are much different than in France, according to the Belgian activist.
“In fact, the police even contacted NGOs here to assist them in organising demonstrations. “They prefer that people who could have been affected by this conflict are allowed to channel their feeling through such demonstrations, rather than them going places where there could be disorder,” Zacharie explained, adding that NGOs in Belgium also have strong collaboration with police and other authorities.