In many ways and at various times, PAX has already urged the need for a ceasefire in Gaza. First and foremost because of the situation in the coastal strip itself, where thousands of civilians have been killed by Israeli bombs and where there is an immense humanitarian crisis. But there is also a great risk that the war in Gaza will escalate regionally, specially in Lebanon.
In recent weeks, violence between Israel on the one hand and Hezbollah in Lebanon on the other has increased in intensity. Strong war rhetoric is also used by both camps. Journalists report rocket fire back and forth, which is taking place further and further inland. As a result, around 30,000 civilians in Lebanon have already had to leave their homes to seek safety in areas further north. It is extremely sad that for many people – Lebanon is home to more than one and a half million Syrians – this was not the first flight. The position of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which is already under pressure, is expected to deteriorate even further.
Targeted attack on journalists
As with the war in Gaza, there are worrying reports that Israel is violating the laws of war in attacks in Lebanon. For example, human rights organization Amnesty International denounces the use of the controversial weapon white phosphorus, which has injured civilians. And journalist organization Reporters Without Borders states that Israel carried out a targeted attack on journalists, who were clearly recognizable as press, who were working in the border area. Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah was killed and several of his colleagues were injured in Alma al-Shaab village in Lebanon.
Expansion in Lebanon
Many worry that as long as the war in Gaza continues to escalate, sooner or later violence in Lebanon will expand as well. In particular because Hezbollah, which has armed itself extensively in recent years, positions itself as an ally of the Palestinians. These concerns are heightened because Israel, which has long occupied southern Lebanon (a piece of land is still disputed), has been at regular war with Hezbollah and other armed non-state actors in Lebanon, committing atrocities and killing many civilians. In the last major escalation in 2006, over 1000 Lebanese citizens were killed and there was large scale destruction of civilian infrastructure. Lebanon, which is already experiencing tough economic times, would be plunged even further into crisis. It is a sign that European countries and the US are calling on their citizens to leave Lebanon.
A ceasefire is needed for Gaza, where violence knows no bounds. But Lebanon also hopes that the weapons in Gaza will soon be silenced. The international community has a duty to insist on this. It is extremely dangerous that the Netherlands, despite all the misery and risks, continues to give Israel carte blanche and refuses to call for a ceasefire.