Belated UN ceasefire call over Gaza – a start, but insufficient

26 March 2024

Andrew Whitley, Chair of the Balfour Project

The Balfour Project warmly welcomes UN Security Council resolution 2728 demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the lifting of all restrictions on the urgent provision of humanitarian aid, at scale, to a population of 2.3 million. Starvation must never be used as a weapon of war.

Months of internal squabbling and political point-scoring in the Council, notably among the five permanent members, have allowed this war to continue for far longer than it should. We thus welcome the UK’s endorsement of this latest resolution and call upon our government to exert every effort to ensure full compliance with it by the parties. Fighting was continuing in Gaza after the ceasefire was due to come into effect.

This resolution rightly demands that all parties comply with their obligations under international law – an issue of central importance. It was gratifying to hear the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dame Barbara Woodward, make this point. This same principled approach must now be taken by our government when it comes to the ongoing work of the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court.

To date, Israel has not complied with the ICJ’s order of provisional measures to prevent acts of genocide and to take “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”.

The unconditional, immediate release of all hostages being held by Hamas is linked in the UN resolution to a related issue that has received less attention: the inability of the ICRC to obtain access to those held by Hamas and Israel since 7 October. This is a grave breach of human rights conventions to which Israel is a signatory. For its part, as an organised political/military force, Hamas is bound by the Geneva Conventions to allow access to those persons it is holding, to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

To back up its words with action, and demonstrate that the UK is serious in wanting to bring this war to an immediate end, our government must now:

  • – Renew its call for an immediate end to hostilities and the release of all hostages.(that terminology sidesteps whether the ceasefire is permanent or merely lasting as they have been arguing about at the UNSC);
  • Inform Israel of practical consequences for bilateral relations if it continues to place unreasonable obstacles in the way of the delivery of humanitarian aid;
  • Publicly reject concerted pressure by Israel to bring the work of UNRWA to a halt and provide the Agency with renewed financial support: to ensure it can continue its invaluable work throughout the region – not only in the Gaza Strip – until such time as the Palestinian refugee issue is definitively resolved; and
  • Work with the Arab Group and other partners on the Security Council to pass a binding follow-up resolution that will come into effect after the end of Ramadan on 9 April, when the short ceasefire ordered yesterday by the UN is due to expire.

The welcome news from the UN in New York was a good start. But it is not enough.

All those of good conscience in the UK and around the world horrified by this dreadful war must press their governments to demand decisive action on the ground to end the suffering. Innocent civilians have already paid too high a price.

If you agree, please inform your MP and call upon our government to match its words with deeds.


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