Gaza has a population of more than two million on whom Israel has issued an exit order. Hamas, like the LTTE, will not permit those people to leave the killing fields even if they want to. Unlike in the Sri Lankan case, with the world’s attention being focused on Gaza, the question of disproportionate use of forces common to both, and the horrors of bombardment of areas of civilian inhabitation will generate more opposition. Also, Israel will not be able to physically eliminate the Hamas fighters in the way the Sri Lankan army eliminated the LTTE fighters. After they were encircled by the numerically larger Sri Lankan army, the LTTE fighters had nowhere to go. The Israeli security forces cannot encircle the Hamas fighters who have neighboring Arab territories to go to.
Many of the Palestinians may support Hamas, as indeed many Tamils supported the LTTE’s fight for a separate Tamil state. But even those who supported the LTTE were not combatants, and needed to be treated as civilians. The same applies to the Palestinians. The international community and humanitarian organisations need to do their utmost to ensure that civilians are protected by both Israel and Hamas so that they do not add to crimes against humanity perpetrated by both sides during the past several days.
The National Peace Council sees the need for de-escalation as urgent. The right to exist of Israel and Palestine needs to be guaranteed. Until the political issues in Israel-Palestine are settled by political means the conflict will remain and escalate with international human rights sanctions being added to complicate the solution even more. What needs to be done immediately is to have the UN Security Council take steps to establish a ceasefire to end the war and in the longer term to reach a negotiated settlement. We urge the Sri Lankan government to use its good offices to this end.
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.