Sweden’s position on the conflict between Israel and Hamas
Fighting between Israel and the terrorist organisation Hamas has now been ongoing since the horrific attacks by Hamas on civilian men, women and children in Israel on 7 October, in which more than 1 200 people were killed and more than 200 civilians, including children and older people, were taken hostage and removed to 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 indiscriminate rocket fire. The Swedish Government unreservedly condemns the attacks by the terrorist organisation Hamas. Sweden demands that all remaining hostages are released immediately and unconditionally, and supports the efforts of the United States, Egypt, Qatar, the International Committee of the Red Cross and others.
Hamas has been on the EU list of terrorist organisations for more than 20 years. Sweden supports the ongoing work within the EU on further measures against Hamas, for example to prevent its financing.
Israel’s right to defend itself is not absolute. Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself must be exercised in compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law. International law applies to everyone and always, regardless of geographic context.
- Civilians must be protected. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be targeted. Hamas and other terrorist organisations in Gaza must not hide behind innocent people and use them as human shields.
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 differentiate between the terrorist organisation Hamas, the Palestinian Authority which represents the Palestinian people in the occupied areas, and the Palestinian civilian population. The Palestinian people are not responsible for acts of terrorism by Hamas.
The Palestinian civilian population is suffering greatly. The images from Gaza are horrifying. All parties in the conflict have a responsibility under humanitarian law to ensure that the civilian population’s humanitarian needs are met. The Government is deeply concerned about the humanitarian consequences of Israel’s blockade. It is extremely important that swift, safe, complete and unobstructed humanitarian access is secured and that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.
Sweden is a major donor of core support to several humanitarian actors on the ground. Since 7 October, Sweden has contributed SEK 250 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Gaza. This goes to the most vulnerable groups, with a focus on the needs of women and children, and contributes to emergency medical care, social protection, access to food, health care, psychosocial support, maternity care, water and sanitation.
Sweden and the EU stress the importance of allowing humanitarian assistance into Gaza, including through humanitarian corridors. The Government welcomes the fact that some humanitarian assistance is now getting through, but much more is needed. For this reason, in the UN General Assembly Sweden, along with 152 other states, voted in favour of a resolution on a humanitarian ceasefire. The resolution demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and underscores the responsibility of all parties to protect civilians and allow humanitarian assistance to reach the civilian population. The resolution also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all of the hostages being held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza.
For around ten years, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has advised against all travel to Gaza, not least because it is very difficult or impossible for Sweden to provide consular support to people in Gaza. Against this backdrop, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and other relevant government agencies have done everything possible to enable Swedes to leave Gaza. It is nonetheless important to pay attention to the Ministry’s travel advice.
- 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 marked by conflict. It would lead to major human suffering and foster further extremism, and could cause even larger refugee flows. Continuous and concentrated diplomatic efforts are therefore urgently needed to prevent further violence.
The increase in settler violence in the West Bank is deeply worrying. Israel must seriously address the unacceptable violence by settlers and cease the expansion of settlements. The Government therefore welcomes the more in-depth discussions in the EU on the possibility to take action against extreme settlers who commit acts of violence against civilians.
- A two-state solution is the foundation for sustainable peace.. 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.
Sweden stands fully behind the following joint EU statements:
This text was originally published on November 2, 2023 but has been updated.