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How do the Iranian attacks on Israel impact our calls to #StopArmingIsrael?

War Child’s Global Head of Advocacy, Rocco Blume, explains why child rights and International Humanitarian Law should not be compromised as a result of this latest escalation in the Middle East crisis.

On 13 April Iran launched more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel, in response to the bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria. Since then, there have been independent reports of retaliatory Israeli attacks on Iran. These events have increased fears that a conflict that has already impacted on the lives of so many across the region might escalate even further. As our hearts went out to the children and families affected by such fears, our heads turned to how we could minimise the impact of these latest developments on children.

War Child exists solely to protect children from conflict regardless of their location, nationality, ethnicity or any other characteristics. For months now, this work has included calling for the UK and other governments around the world, who already prohibit the sale of arms to Iran and the Palestinian armed groups involved in the conflict, to also suspend the sale of arms to Israel.

We made these calls in light of assessments by internationally respected independent experts, including the UN, that Israel has violated child rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) in Gaza, by attacking civilian targets, forcing children from their homes, and collectively punishing the population of Gaza, including through forced starvation.

Under the terms of international agreements such as the 1949 Geneva Convention, which the UK has signed up to, governments should not permit the sale of arms to anyone if it encourages or enables violations of IHL. Countries like Italy, Spain and the Netherlands have already suspended arms sales to Israel for this reason, the Dutch government having been ordered to do so by their own law courts.

We know the attacks by Iran will have raised fears, already heightened since the attacks of 7 October, among children and their families in Israel. We empathise with them and with all children and civilians across the region who are currently being forced to live in fear due to the spreading violence. However, while Israel - like all nation states - has a right to self-defence, this right does not exempt the Israeli government, nor their allies in the UK and US, from their international obligations regarding child rights and IHL. If such exemptions were allowed, it would swiftly result in the complete erosion of international law and child rights, as governments one by one justified disregarding such rules on grounds of self-defence. In such circumstances, it would be children, who these rules exist to protect, that would be left most vulnerable.

We at War Child will always call for IHL and child rights to be respected; and in this instance, this should include the suspension of arms sales to Israel for as long as it continues to violate IHL. Please join us in campaigning for this and other measures needed to protect children - an immediate lasting ceasefire, safe access to aid for all civilians, and the immediate release of all hostages and illegal detainees.