Sweden’s position on the conflict between Israel and Hamas
Fighting between Israel and the terrorist organisation Hamas has now continued without interruption since the horrific attacks by Hamas on 7 October. Hundreds of civilian men, women and children were killed and more than 200 civilians, including children and older people, were taken hostage and are now being held captive in Gaza.
The Swedish Government’s position on this violent conflict is based on the following premises:
- Israel clearly has a right to defend itself against terrorism and the continuing indiscriminate rocket fire. The Swedish Government has unreservedly condemned the attacks by the terrorist organisation Hamas. We have also called for the unconditional release of the hostages.
That said, the right to defend itself is not absolute. Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself must comply with international law, including international humanitarian law. International law apply to everyone and always, regardless of geographic context.
- Civilians must be protected. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be targeted. This means that Hamas and other terrorist organisations in Gaza must not hide behind innocent people and use them as human shields.
It also means that Israel must avoid harming civilians as far as possible when exercising its right to defend itself. Direct attacks on civilians and civilian property are unlawful. The principles of distinction between civilian objects and military objectives, proportionality and precaution must always be applied.
- Humanitarian access is fundamental. Major responsibility for the humanitarian disaster in Gaza rests with Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007. However, we must also distinguish between the terrorist organisation Hamas, the Palestinian Authority which governs on the West Bank and the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people are not responsible for acts of terrorism by Hamas.
Even if Hamas is largely responsible for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Israel also bears responsibility. The Government is deeply concerned about the humanitarian consequences of Israel’s blockade. It is extremely important that humanitarian access is secured and that water, emergency items, fuel, medicines and electricity are allowed through.
The Government supports the efforts of the EU and the UN to establish humanitarian corridors and welcomes the fact that some humanitarian aid has been allowed through, in consultation with Israel, in Rafah at Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. But much more is needed.
- Regional escalation must be avoided. The risk of regional escalation is substantial, and such escalation would entail even more devastating consequences. Joint diplomatic efforts, including by regional actors and the UN, are essential to avoiding further escalation and the accompanying risk of full-scale war and other ripple effects in the region. The EU also has an important role to play in this.
Regional escalation would exacerbate an already difficult situation in a region already marked by conflict. It would lead to enormous human suffering and additional refugee flows, and foster further extremism. Continuous and concerted diplomatic efforts are therefore urgently needed to prevent more violence.
- Sustainable peace builds on a two-state solution. We must maintain the focus on a negotiated two-state solution where Israel and Palestine can coexist side by side. This means stopping recurring cycles of violence, addressing the underlying causes of the conflict and helping to increase understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. A negotiated two-state solution is and remains the only sustainable path to peace.
Based on these premises, Sweden, together with the majority of EU Member States, refrained from supporting the proposed resolution on a humanitarian ceasefire presented in the UN General Assembly on 28 October. This is because the proposed resolution did not clearly condemn the terrorist attacks against Israel by Hamas and made no reference to Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists.
Sweden and all EU Member States, the US, the UK, Norway and Iceland voted in favour of an amendment to the proposed resolution presented by Canada, which condemned the terrorist attacks by Hamas and demanded the immediate release of the hostages. However, the proposed amendment was not adopted.
Sweden is a major core support donor to several humanitarian actors on the ground. Additional humanitarian support to Gaza is urgently needed, and is something that the US has encouraged all countries to contribute. Efforts between the US, Egypt, Israel, the UN and other regional actors are also under way to ensure that humanitarian support can reach the civilian population in Gaza without benefiting Hamas or other terrorist organisations.
Sweden stands fully behind the conclusions adopted by all EU leaders in the European Council on 27 October: