One day, the war between Israel and Hamas will come to an end. And when that happens, Israelis and Palestinians will need to re-engage in the essential question of what could constitute a peaceful settlement between them. But with each passing day of bombing, blockade, rocket attacks and hostages not released, it becomes more and more difficult to resume the process towards a two-state solution.
The war has reminded us that there is no viable alternative to a peace process and a two-state solution. The international community cannot continue to look the other way. We cannot allow another 30 years of occupation, war and unresolved conflict.
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At the time of writing, one month has passed since the barbaric terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7. A total of 1,400 Israelis were murdered. Over 230 people were taken hostage.
The air raid sirens continue to blare due to continued rocket attacks, and Israelis across the country are deeply worried about their loved ones. But the same is true of Palestinians. The people of Gaza are living with the sound and devastation of Israeli bombing raids night and day. Over 9,000 Palestinians have been killed, nearly half of them children. The death toll is rising every day.
For one month, the people of Gaza have faced severe shortages of essential supplies such as food, water, fuel and medicines. Even if hundreds have been allowed to exit through the Rafah crossing to Egypt, several thousand foreign nationals, including 250 Norwegians, are still waiting to leave Gaza. Roughly half the buildings in Gaza have been damaged or reduced to rubble. People who had very little to start with have lost everything. People who were already refugees have once again been forced to flee.
There are rules in war
Hamas’s attack on October 7 was a flagrant violation of international law. We have been clear in stating that Hamas should be considered a terrorist organisation. Israel has the right to self-defence against the horrible attacks committed by Hamas.
At the same time, international law establishes clear limits for what is permitted in warfare. All parties to conflict must comply with international humanitarian law. The parties must take active steps to distinguish between military targets and the civilian population to the extent possible. In addition, the harm caused to civilians or civilian infrastructure must not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated. The warfare in Gaza has by far exceeded these limitations.
It is explicitly prohibited to carry out attacks on hospitals, healthcare personnel and civilian infrastructure, and to set up blockades preventing access to life-saving humanitarian relief for civilians in need.
International humanitarian law applies just as fully to Hamas: It is prohibited to kill civilians or take them hostage.
Nor is it permitted to fire rockets indiscriminately into Israeli territory, or to use civilians as a human shield.
Furthermore, using schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure as a base for launching military attacks on Israel is unacceptable. All such actions would further exacerbate the risk to an already vulnerable civilian population.
Three Norwegian priorities
The most urgent priority is to secure a break in the war in order to alleviate human suffering and help those who are affected.
The situation in Gaza is desperate. The scale of destruction is enormous. A child is dying every 15 minutes.
Norway has a broad network in and outside the Middle East and we are making full use of these contacts now.
On October 27, Norway was one of 120 UN member states that voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian truce and demanding the unhindered provision of essential aid to civilians in Gaza. The international community is expressing its concern about the people in Gaza and their right to life and health. This sends a clear message to all parties of the need to respect international law, protect the civilian population and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.
We must ensure that humanitarian aid actually reaches people inside Gaza.
This is a matter of urgency. UN resolutions alone will not feed the hungry. Some aid has been allowed in over the past week, but it is only a drop in the ocean of what is needed.
In Gaza, there is a huge, acute need for fuel, medicines, water and food. Norway has increased its humanitarian support to the UN and humanitarian organisations by 200 million Norwegian kroner ($18m). We have also urged other countries to increase their humanitarian support to the people of Gaza and to maintain their support for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
If the authorities in the West Bank collapse, there will be no one for Israel to negotiate with when the day comes when it is possible to resume peace negotiations.
We are doing all we can to get Norwegian and other foreign citizens out of Gaza.
The situation for everyone who is in Gaza is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with. We welcome the progress that has been made over the last days enabling some foreign nationals to leave Gaza. We are working hard to ensure that Norwegian citizens and other foreigners can leave Gaza in the coming days. A Norwegian emergency response team deployed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in place in Cairo and stands ready to help those who come out of Gaza.
Duty to speak up
Norway has a duty to speak up about the fact that the military actions against Gaza have gone too far. We do so as a friend to Israel, fully cognisant of the shock imposed on Israeli society by the terror of October 7.
The international community cannot simply look the other way. We cannot and will not accept the enormous suffering and devastation we are now seeing in Gaza.
We are in the midst of a deep crisis: for Gaza, for Israel, for Palestine, for the Middle East and the international community as a whole. Our message to Hamas is that they must halt their rocket attacks on Israel. They must release the hostages immediately and unconditionally, and they must never use civilians as a human shield.
When the war is over, Israel will need to live side by side with the Palestinians and the Arab countries. The risk of the conflict spreading and of further escalation is growing with every day that passes. Violence by the Israeli security forces and settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank has increased dramatically. There are daily clashes between Israel and Lebanon. In many countries across the world, we are seeing that what started as peaceful protests in support of the people of Gaza are leading to further animosity. We can never tolerate a situation where members of the Jewish community in Norway fear for their safety because of the situation in the Middle East.
The hostilities must cease
The 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza are holding their breath, hoping that their families will survive and that they will still have a roof over their heads after the next night’s bombing raids. In Israel, hundreds of families are fearful for their kidnapped family members and are praying for their safe return.
This situation cannot continue. That is why we are appealing to the Israeli government and the Palestinians to find another way. To stop the violence. To ensure humanitarian access. To release the hostages. And to resume the negotiations on a two-state solution.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.