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Norway believes Israel may have broken international law in Gaza bombardment

ABU DHABI: Norway believes Israel may have broken international law in its bombardment of Gaza that has levelled neighbourhoods and killed thousands of Palestinians, its foreign minister said on Tuesday (Oct 31).

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters in an interview that while Oslo supports Israel’s right to self-defence, humanitarian law must be adhered to.

This meant distinguishing between combatants and civilians and ensuring that military attacks are proportionate to avoid excessive harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure, he said.

“We believe that there have been cases where this proportionality and this distinction have not been fully respected,” he said, speaking in the United Arab Emirates.

Israel’s embassy in Abu Dhabi had no immediate comment, but the country says its forces do not target civilians.

More than 8,000 people have been killed in the Israeli bombardments, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel started its offensive after Hamas attacks on southern Israel on Oct 7 which authorities there say killed 1,400 people.

Israeli officials have said that it will not let up its assault on Gaza until it destroys Hamas, the Iran-backed militant group that rules the enclave.

Norway served as a facilitator in the 1992 to 1993 talks between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that led to the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Since then, it has remained involved as chair of the donor group which coordinates international assistance to the Palestinian territories.

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International calls for a temporary pause in the fighting to allow more humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinians in Gaza have been rejected by Israel.

“What we’re seeing in Gaza is a terribly dramatic humanitarian situation,” Barth Eide said.

He described conditions there as “terrible” with people largely cut off from water, electricity and medical supplies after weeks of heavy bombardment by Israel.

He said that satellite images that showed the bombing of entire areas, the destruction of thousands of people’s homes and attacks on medical facilities were “clearly problematic” from an international humanitarian law perspective.

“This is not only important from a legal perspective, it’s also important because there will come a time where we have to look for political solutions,” Barth Eide said.

“We need to get back to the key issue of what to do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The two-state solution envisaged in the Oslo Accords was the only solution, he said.

Norway has also condemned the attacks by Hamas.

About 200 Norwegian citizens are estimated to be stuck in Gaza and unable to leave due to the blockade.

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