Israeli troops engage in operations in northern Gaza

Israeli troops engage in operations in northern Gaza on November 8, 2023.

(Photo: Daphné Lemelin/AFP via Getty Images)

NGOs Call for Attendees of Paris Aid Conference to Back Gaza Cease-Fire

"We call on states to live up to their joint and individual responsibility to cooperate in providing humanitarian assistance," said one group leader. "They cannot sit by and witness this suffering any longer."

Over a dozen international relief organizations and human rights groups on Wednesday urged any world leaders joining French President Emmanuel Macron's "humanitarian conference" in Paris to support a cease-fire in Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians.

The coalition's call came on the eve of the conference, which is set to occur "on the margins" of the annual Paris Peace Forum.

The 13 organizations urged the conference attendees "to do everything in their power to achieve an immediate cease-fire; take concrete steps to free civilian hostages and protect all civilian populations; and ensure the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and respect for international humanitarian law."

The groups include Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Oxfam France, and Doctors Without Borders, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

"We are receiving increasingly desperate calls for protection and aid from our humanitarian workers inside the locked-down Gaza Strip," NRC secretary general Jan Egeland said in the statement. "It is unacceptable that there is still no humanitarian cease-fire, no humanitarian corridors, and no end to the suffocating siege."

Israel intensified its 16-year blockade of Gaza and began bombarding the besieged enclave in response to a Hamas-led attack on October 7. Officials say over 1,500 Israelis have been killed in the past month and around 240 others are still being held hostage by Palestinian militants.

Israeli forces are now conducting a ground assault in what global experts are calling a "genocidal" war on Gaza, where 2.3 million Palestinians must contend with relentless bombing, devastated civilian infrastructure, limited essential supplies, and a healthcare system on the brink of collapse.

MSF France president Dr. Isabelle Defourny emphasized Wednesday that "hospitals caring for the wounded must be spared at all times" and achieving a cease-fire "is a vital emergency" given the scale of need and "catastrophic health situation" in Gaza.

Amnesty secretary general Agnès Callamard similarly stressed the need for a cease-fire, welcomed Macron's "decision to host an international humanitarian conference for the people of Gaza," and "strongly" encouraged other nations to also do their part.

"For this cease-fire to be effective, states must ensure it covers the entire Gaza Strip and that it's long enough to allow a substantive alleviation of suffering," she said. "The wounded have to be properly taken care of and hospitals and clinics must be repaired, relief has to be distributed safely and unconditionally, and the dead must be recovered and buried."

Callamard—whose group also released a separate statement on the French-hosted conference—also said that "we call on states to live up to their joint and individual responsibility to cooperate in providing humanitarian assistance in times of emergency," declaring that "they cannot sit by and witness this suffering any longer."

"Going forward," she concluded, "Amnesty International is calling on those attending the conference to commit to the long-term recovery of Gaza, ensure people are able to eventually return to their homes, and put an enduring, human rights-centered political solution to the crisis on the agenda."

According to the French government, "The conference will mobilize the main players involved in the humanitarian response in Gaza and determined to take concrete action to support Palestinian civilians in the city: states, main donors, international organizations and NGOs active in Gaza."

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is refusing to participate in the event. Citing an official in Macron's office, The Times of Israelreported that the pair spoke on Tuesday and "will talk again once the aid conference is over."

"The French leader had also spoken to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Tuesday," the newspaper noted. "Both countries are playing a key role in attempts to bring more aid into the Gaza Strip."

While some humanitarian aid has begun entering Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the United Nations World Food Program said Sunday that "it is nowhere near enough to meet the exponentially growing needs."

Increasingly large protests around the world have demanded a cease-fire—a position opposed by Netanyahu's government as well as the Biden administration, which has responded to the war by asking U.S. lawmakers for over $14 billion in military aid for Israel, on top of the nearly $4 billion that the nation already receives annually.

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