Quakers in Britain are shocked and deeply saddened by the major escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine

As of 11 October 2023, more than 1,200 people have been killed in Israel and more than 900 in Gaza. Over 2,700 people have been injured in Israel, and 4,250 in Gaza. More than 260,000 Gazans have been displaced from their homes. Up to 150 people have been taken hostage by Hamas. Behind these rising numbers of deaths and casualties are individual lives ended or changed irrevocably. We mourn those lives already lost and call for an immediate de-escalation.

Smoke in the distance with dry fields in foreground
Smoke rises from Gaza near where Hamas militants broke through kibbutz Kfar Aza's fence in Israel days earlier, photo credit: Alexi J. Rosenfeld for Getty Images

Indiscriminate attacks on civilians are always unjustifiable. They violate international humanitarian law which seeks to limit the harms of war and protect non-combatants. We condemn the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians and the taking of hostages. We also condemn the violent actions of the Israeli state in Gaza, including airstrikes into areas with high civilian populations, and cutting off water, electricity, and access to humanitarian relief.

We have said before that these cycles of violence must be understood in the context of Israel's military occupation of Palestine, including the blockade on Gaza. The past year has seen record levels of attacks on Palestinian communities, and a sharp increase in human rights violations. This includes demolition of homes and schools, repression of nonviolent protests and mass-arrests.

As Quakers we place equal value on every human life and see that the structural violence of the occupation damages all people of the region. We believe the situation can only be resolved when the occupation has ended and the inherent equality, dignity and worth of all is realised.

It is time for everyone – including the international community – to recognise that no military solution will bring a permanent end to violence. Only a just peace based on international law can do that. We urge the UK government and international leaders to ensure humanitarian access and response. We call for a ceasefire and release of hostages to prevent further loss of life and suffering for Israelis and Palestinians.

Read more on Quaker engagement with Israel and Palestine here