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APF statement on the escalating armed conflict in Israel and Gaza

Graphic: Damaged buildings in Gaza

Asia Pacific Forum LogoAsia Pacific Forum

We, the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF), are devastated by the recent events in Palestine and Israel.

We grieve the loss of innocent civilian lives in the past week – both in the deliberate and inhumane attacks on the civilian population in Israel by Hamas, as well as the continued military campaign by Israeli forces, which has resulted in civilian casualties in Gaza. 

As a network of 26 National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) across the Asia Pacific region, we support and stand in solidarity with our colleagues at the Palestine Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), an APF member institution and the NHRI of Palestine, who courageously monitor and document human rights violations in the face of an unprecedented climate of insecurity. 

As airstrikes in Gaza continue ahead of an anticipated Israeli ground offensive, we strongly urge all parties to the armed conflict to respect and uphold the principles of international humanitarian law, in particular the protection of civilians during armed conflict under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The lives and rights of civilians must be protected under all circumstances, and the killing of civilians for strategic considerations or in retaliation is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

We are gravely concerned about the impact of the armed conflict on ICHR personnel, in particular our ICHR colleagues working in Gaza, and their families, many of whom have experienced the destruction of their homes and the trauma of displacement. 

We are immensely saddened to hear of the loss of 12 family members of ICHR staff member Hassan Halasa – including his mother, wife, and three of his children – who all lost their lives in a single attack on a house where they had sought refuge, after fleeing their home to escape earlier airstrikes. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Mr Halasa and his relatives in these tragic circumstances. 

Over the past week, in fulfilment of its critical monitoring mandate, the ICHR has issued stark warnings of an impending humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with more than two million people in urgent need of assistance.  

A severe shortage of drinking water, food and fuel is having a devastating impact on civilians in Gaza, a region already severely affected by a 16-year blockade, with essential medical equipment at risk of being disrupted. 

According to the ICHR, hundreds of thousands of people have already been forcibly displaced from their homes and are living under the constant threat of bombardments and intense airstrikes throughout Gaza. 

We wish to reaffirm our support for the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and emphasise the imperative need for the protection and respect of the human rights and dignity of all individuals involved in the armed conflict. 

Mr. Doo-Hwan Song, APF Chairperson 

Date: 18 October 2023

Download the statement in PDF format here.

Image credits

  1. Damaged buildings in Gaza - Palestine Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR)