‘Civilians must be protected’

‘I am shocked and deeply disturbed by the killing of hundreds of people at the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza last night. Such an attack on sick people, children, healthcare workers and other civilians is intolerable. I wish to express my profound condolences to the many victims and their families,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

It appears to remain unclear who was responsible for the attack on the hospital in Gaza City last evening. Clarifying what in fact happened is now important. This attack and yesterday’s attack on a UN school in a refugee camp in Gaza, which claimed at least six lives, are tragic reminders of the totally unacceptable suffering now being experienced by the civilian population of Gaza.

Under international law, all acts of self-defence must be necessary and proportionate. The parties also have a duty to comply with humanitarian law. This means taking all feasible measures to prevent or reduce civilian casualties and damage.

‘There are clear rules in war. Regardless of who is behind this attack: all belligerent parties have a duty to protect civilians, hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure. I wish to emphasise at the same time that civilian buildings should not be used for military activity, as this will make them susceptible to attack. Hostage-taking is not permitted,’ says Eide. 

According to the United Nations, 1 300 Israelis and more than 3 000 Palestinians have been killed since the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel on 7 October.