Israel/OPT: hostage release deal must pave way to further releases and sustained ceasefire

Criteria for a meaningful ceasefire include it covering all of Gaza, and allowing for free and safe movement of civilians and humanitarian personnel 

Fresh call on Israel to release all arbitrarily-detained Palestinian prisoners

‘Halting the fighting for a matter of days is nowhere near enough to address the catastrophic suffering’ - Agnès Callamard

Responding to news that a deal has been agreed to release at least 50 hostages - mostly Israeli women and children - in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian detainees, many of them children, and an initial four-day-long humanitarian pause in fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: 

“While the terrifying ordeal should come to an end for hostages who are released, their trauma will be long-lasting. 

“We reiterate our call for all armed groups to immediately release all other civilians who continue to be held hostage in Gaza. The release of Palestinian detainees should not be a pre-condition for releasing hostages. Hostage-taking is a war crime - those responsible for abducting and depriving civilians of their liberty must be held accountable.

“We also call on the Israeli authorities to release all Palestinians detained unlawfully, including those held without charge or trial in administrative detention.  

“In recent weeks, Amnesty research has highlighted an alarming deterioration in conditions for Palestinian detainees including punitive torture and humiliation of detainees, a spike in the use of administrative detention and the imposition of abusive ‘emergency’ measures in prisons facilitating cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees. 

“Arbitrary detention and torture and other ill-treatment are war crimes when committed against protected persons in an occupied territory. 

“The four-day humanitarian pause will bring a brief respite to more than two million civilians who have borne the brunt of Israel’s ruthless daily onslaught in the occupied Gaza Strip. But halting the fighting for a matter of days is nowhere near enough to address the catastrophic suffering or relieve the horrifying harm to civilians. 

“We call on all the negotiators involved in this first pause, the Israel authorities and Hamas and other armed groups, to do absolutely everything in their power and influence to ensure that this humanitarian pause is extended into a sustained ceasefire. Humanity must prevail - not just a little bit of it. 
 
“So far Israel’s ruthless bombardment has brought mass bloodshed and suffering to millions and has been unparalleled in its intensity and the scale of devastation and suffering. 

“More than 14,000 people, including 5,500 children, have been killed in Gaza. Over 1,200 people have been killed during the horrific attacks by Hamas and other armed groups in Israel on 7 October.”

Criteria for meaningful ceasefire

Amnesty is reiterating its call for a meaningful and effective ceasefire. Namely, one that:

-covers the whole of the Gaza Strip and is of sufficient duration to allow for a substantive alleviation of suffering

-is predicated on the free and safe movement of civilians and humanitarian personnel throughout Gaza

-that will allow for the dead to be recovered, buried and mourned, the wounded to be properly taken care of and treated, and for hospitals and clinics to be repaired and to receive essential materials. 

Amnesty is also reiterating its demand that independent observers - including staff from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Commission of Inquiry for Israel and OPT, the UN Special Rapporteur on OPT, the International Criminal Court and human rights organisations such as Amnesty - should be given access to Gaza to conduct investigations into the situation on the ground, including unlawful air and ground strikes and other violations of international humanitarian law by all parties.  
 
Under the hostage and prisoner deal announced earlier today, at least 50 Israeli women and children hostages will be released over a four-day humanitarian pause in the fighting. For every ten additional hostages released the ceasefire will be extended by one day. The deal could potentially include a further 50 hostages and up to 300 Palestinian detainees whose names were published by the Israeli ministry of justice. Media reports indicate that the pause could potentially be extended up to a maximum of ten days. The release of Palestinian detainees held by Israel is expected to include many children - the youngest 14 - many of whom are detained but have not yet been convicted. Israel must abide by its obligation to release arbitrarily-detained Palestinian prisoners at all times. 

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