Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The use of explosive weapons is increasing

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Israel dropped 29,000 explosives over Gaza in the first two weeks of the war alone, and 90 percent were satellite-guided bombs of 450 and 900 kg. Photo: AP / NTB

Of NTB | 24.04.2024 05:50:23

Policy: Palestine, Ukraine, Sudan, Myanmar, Syria and Yemen are highlighted as examples of horror in the report «Explosive Weapons Monitor 2023».

The annual report is published by International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), a network of 50 organizations from 25 countries. Norwegian People’s Aid sits on the steering group, together with, among others, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children.

Explosive weapons mean grenade launchers, rockets, missiles, artillery projectiles and aerial bombs, in addition to roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.

– Norwegian People’s Aid has long worked for disarmament and we recognize that countries must defend themselves and secure their citizens, sometimes with weapons. There are still some rules to protect civilians and civilian targets, he says.

– Now we see that weapons designed to hit military targets are used in cities. Around 90 percent of the victims are civilians. This is the tendency in most armed conflicts today, and a completely unacceptable figure that needs to be done urgently, says Johansen.

The use of explosive weapons also causes long-term damage to water and electricity supplies, drains, roads and other infrastructure, and worsens the living conditions for the inhabitants of the area for a long time to come.

Children are hit the hardest because small bodies are even more vulnerable to pressure waves, burns and splinters.

– The increase can largely be linked to the use of explosive weapons in Palestine, states the report.

In at least 21 countries or territories, such weapons were used against schools and other educational institutions, and in many of the attacks teachers, school pupils or students were killed or injured. This was an increase of 80 per cent from the previous year, the report shows.

Aid workers and aid organizations were also attacked with explosive weapons. At least 470 such attacks were recorded in eleven countries or territories last year, almost a fivefold increase from the previous year.

Government forces from 29 countries caused civilian casualties or damage to health and education facilities or aid workers or aid organizations last year.

– Armed forces from at least three countries – Israel, Russia and Myanmar – used explosive weapons on at least 1,000 occasions that caused damage to civilians, the report states.

60 percent of all homes in the Gaza Strip are according to the UN completely or partially destroyed in the attacks, as are at least 80 percent of all commercial buildings, over 150 hospitals, clinics and health centres, over 160 UN buildings and around 130 ambulances.

According to Palestinian health authorities, over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed and at least 77,000 wounded in the Israeli attacks, and around 70 percent of the victims are children and women.

– The use of explosive weapons in populated areas has both immediate and long-term consequences for civilians. From Gaza and Ukraine to Myanmar and Sudan, the tendency is the same: When cities and towns are bombed, it is always the civilian population that suffers the most, says Katherine Young, who leads the research and monitoring work at INEW.

The Russian airstrikes with MLRS Grad rockets, missiles and grenades against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine deprived people of water, gas and electricity for weeks last year, and only a third of children could go to school, the report points out.

In Sudan, 4.85 million people were displaced as a result of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in 2023, and the acts of war make it very difficult to reach them with emergency aid today.

Last year, 22 cases were registered where explosive weapons were used against aid workers, aid shipments and stores of emergency aid in Sudan, which has contributed to intensifying the crisis further, the report states.

The same was the case in Myanmar. Although fewer civilians were reported killed last year than the year before, airstrikes and artillery attacks against hospitals and medical personnel continue to affect the mental and physical health of the civilian population.

Among other things, the attacks on health institutions have resulted in 1.9 million children in Myanmar now being unvaccinated, and this increases the risk of outbreaks of serious diseases.

– The declaration is an important agreement of intent, and due to the imminent danger of harm to civilians, it is crucial that countries that have signed the agreement start by introducing the necessary bans and restrictions against the use of explosive weapons in cities and densely populated areas, says Laura Boillot in the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW).

Earlier in the week, INEW and the Norwegian Red Cross also invited to a so-called protection forum in Oslo, where victims of explosive weapons participated. Among them was Syrian Marwa Almbaed.

– When we exchange experiences, we must never forget to include those who have survived. Listen to people like me who have experienced war up close. It is we who know how war affects the daily life of the civilian population and know what they need, was his message.

– There has not been as much use of bombs and explosive weapons since the Second World War as there is in the world now. Bombs and the use of weapons have become a way to secure one’s interests, but there is no solution to the problems we face today, says general secretary Raymond Johansen of Norwegian People’s Aid to NTB.

Explosive weapons are often imprecise, and when they are used in densely populated areas they often result in large civilian casualties and material destruction. This is because the explosion causes pressure waves and often fires, and building debris and splinters are thrown in all directions.

Last year, civilians were killed or injured by explosive weapons in at least 75 countries or territories, and the use of such weapons against health workers, ambulances, hospitals and clinics increased by 12 percent from the previous year.

– Hospitals and health personnel, emergency workers and journalists are being targeted. These are groups that, according to international law, have special protection. That they have become targets in today’s wars is a very worrying development. If international law does not apply, neither do you and I have protection if war breaks out, says Johansen.

The report highlights Israel’s “extreme bombing” of the Gaza Strip. In the first two weeks of the war in October alone, 29,000 explosives were dropped over Gaza, and of these, 90 percent were satellite-guided bombs of 450 or 900 kilograms, it appears.

Even in war zones where fighting has subsided and fewer civilians are killed, explosive weapons pose a major danger.

Envoys from 86 states met this week in Oslo to follow up on a political declaration from 2022 to strengthen the protection of civilians against the use of explosive weapons.

(© NTB)

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