The image of haggard doctors standing amid bodies and rubble following the explosive strike on al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza has sent shock waves around the world, which was still reeling from horrific Hamas-led attacks and the relentless Israeli bombardment and siege of Gaza. In the past two weeks, thousands of Israeli and Palestinian civilians have been killed with a speed and brutality that was previously unimaginable in Israel and Palestine. There is little sign that the spiral of mass killing will subside soon. Instead, there are clear warning signs that further atrocities are imminent.
United Nations experts have cautioned that “atrocity crimes are processes, not singular events. They are foreshadowed by the presence of risk factors and early warning signs … [giving] many opportunities to prevent crises from escalating. After they reach a certain stage, however, the options for action are both more limited and more costly.” Since 2021, the UK Government promised to adopt a more integrated approach to tackling conflict and instability, with an increased emphasis on atrocity prevention.
Even before the Hamas-led 7 October massacres, warning signs were already blinking red – a track record of unlawful attacks by Israeli armed forces and Palestinian armed groups, unprecedented repression and apartheid against Palestinians, dehumanizing rhetoric by Israeli officials and glorification of attacks on civilians by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. These trends have been exacerbated by the absence of safeguards to restrain actors likely to commit atrocities. [Continue reading…]