Jerusalem24 – Eighty countries have signed an international declaration promising to refrain from using explosive weapons in populated zones, “to address the devastating and long-lasting humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.”
The United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as civil-society organizations including the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), all provided input during the consultation process.
Although not an outright ban, nor a legally enforceable agreement, campaigners expect signatory states to change their targeting policies and hope other countries will eventually follow suit.
According to The Guardian, securing the United States’ signature “paved the way for other Nato members, including Germany and Turkey, to make the commitment” and was “critical to the success of the negotiations.”
Israel is one of several parties – including Russia – currently or regularly engaged in bombing populated, residential areas to have snubbed the declaration.
“Leading cause of death”
According to a decade-long study by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has become “the leading cause of civilian deaths” in conflict.
Explosive weapons comprise air-launched strikes, ground-launched strikes, IEDs, and mines.
AOAV recorded 357,370 casualties (deaths and injuries) by explosive weapons in 28,879 incidents between 2011 and 2020. Of the casualties recorded, 73% were civilians (262,413 civilians killed and injured).
Civilians were most at risk when explosive weapons were used in populated areas – “a well-established pattern of harm”, according to the study.
Syria and Iraq alone account for over 60% of the total casualties in the past decade, and the wider Middle East for over 75%.
Gaza ranked ninth globally with 5,700 casualties, of which 5,107 were civilians – or 90%. Gaza has the second highest civilians-to-combatants ratio among its victims. Only Lebanon registered a higher ratio, with 91% of casualties being civilians.
Israel is specifically named in the report as a “key perpetrator” of deadly bombings in the Middle East, along with the Syrian regime, Syrian rebel groups, Russia, the US-led coalition, Turkey, the Islamic State, the Saudi-led coalition, and Houthi rebels.
In addition to five bombing campaigns on Gaza and missiles fired into Lebanon, Israel has carried out numerous air strikes against what it says are “Iran-backed targets” in Syria, the majority of which it has not acknowledged responsibility for.