We, the Kofi Annan Foundation, add our voices to the many who are calling for the urgent cessation of hostilities, the immediate release of all hostages by Hamas, and the unimpeded provision of humanitarian relief for civilians in Gaza.
Kofi Annan often cited the African proverb that cautions us that “when the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” It has long been clear that in any conflict between Hamas and Israel, it is Palestinian and Israeli civilians who suffer. In this case, many have been children.
Israeli citizens were attacked and faced horrific acts of murder and brutality on 7 October 2023. After days of intense bombing by Israel in heavily populated areas, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinian lives have already been lost.
Our primary consideration and fundamental responsibility must be the protection of civilians – it is that which guided Kofi Annan in the many crises which occurred while he was United Nations Secretary-General and which must guide us always.
We urge, therefore, all involved in the fighting to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. Those who do not must be held accountable by the international community. Neither side can claim moral high ground while willingly putting civilians at risk. Current actions will only serve to perpetuate cycles of violence in which no sustainable peace can be found.
The conflict could quickly spread and engulf a region where tensions have simmered for too long. Many casualties have already occurred in the West Bank in the past weeks as extremists seek to benefit from the situation.
Only courageous and principled leadership can lead the region out of this escalating crisis and silence the guns. The international community, the United Nations and regional leaders must finally discharge their responsibilities and make the difficult choices that can lead to peace and which they have avoided for too long. To build genuine and lasting peace, Kofi Annan once said, “We need hope but also strong leadership. And this is where everyone must play a role. It is up to each individual to stress that which unites us over that which sets us apart.”