[The following is an English translation of a statement issued by an ad-hoc coalition of Timor-Leste NGOs at a Dili press conference on 19 January 2009. The Tetum original and a photo, are available at http://www.laohamutuk.org/War/09PalestineStmt.htm.]
The armed conflict from Israel against Palestine which began the day after Christmas 2008 has killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, but under international law civilians must not be targeted in armed conflict. There are 1.5 million Gaza residents, encircled in an area of 378 square kilometers. All the borders with Israel and Egypt are closed, so there is no way for civilians to escape the area of the war.
Reports in the media and from nongovernmental organizations document that the Israeli military uses force without looking at where they shoot, resulting in civilian deaths, destruction of infrastructure, showing that the object of their attacks is civilian society. Schools and UN facilities in Gaza have also come under attack by Israeli missiles.
According to Israeli human rights organizations, the people of Gaza are faced with a very difficult situation:
- The fighting is taking place throughout the Gaza Strip, whose border crossings are closed, so that residents have nowhere to flee, neither inside the Gaza Strip nor by leaving it. They are forced to live in fear and terror.
- The health system has collapsed. Hospitals are unable to provide adequate treatment to the injured, nor can patients be evacuated to medical centers outside of the Gaza Strip. This state of affairs is causing the death of injured persons who could have been saved.
- Areas that were subject to intensive attacks are completely isolated. It is impossible to know the condition of the people who are there, whether they are injured and need treatment and whether they have food, water and medicine. The army is preventing local and international rescue teams from accessing those places and is also refraining from helping them itself, even though it is required to do so by law.
- Many of the residents do not have access to electricity or running water, and in many populated areas sewage water is running in the streets. That combination creates severe sanitation problems and increases the risk of an outbreak of epidemics.
The conflict in Gaza is not new. Many people in Gaza have been refugees since Israel was created in 1948. Gazans live under Israeli occupation. Even though Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005, the people in Gaza, and in all of Palestine, are not free. They cannot travel freely, Israeli military checkpoints control them, and Palestinians need permission from Israel when they want to go somewhere. When Timor-Leste youth held an international conference in 2008 to commemorate the Santa Cruz Massacre, the Palestinian participant could not come to Dili because he didn't receive permission from the Israeli government. The area of Gaza (as well as the West Bank) is surrounded by Israeli soldiers, who control all Palestine's land borders, and Israeli troops can enter into Palestine. As is happening now, with firing from the air, Israel's soldiers enter Gaza at their will. Israel also controls Gaza from the sea and the air. The people of Palestine are not free in their own land.
As people who lived under 24 years of Indonesian occupation, we strongly empathize with the suffering that confronts the people of Palestine in Gaza. We feel the suffering of Gazans when they become refugees, because many of us had to run from Timor-Leste's cities and seek refuge in the forests to escape the war when our armed forces resisted Indonesian military aggression in 1975. We also feel for the children of Gaza, who lose their parents from Israeli bombing, because our parents were killed by bombing from sophisticated warplanes when we fled to Mt. Matebian in the east and Mt. Taroman in the west. We feel the hunger that confronts the people of Gaza, as we also starved when Indonesian soldiers destroyed our fields and farms, and we had to live in Indonesian-controlled areas from 1979 to 1983. We feel for the parents who have lost their children, as many of us experienced the same tragedy. We understand the denial of freedom to travel, and the loss of dignity that confronts the people of Gaza, because for many years we also had military posts controlling us when we went out of our houses. Because of these experiences, we feel a special solidarity for the people of Gaza and all of Palestine.
We would like to make the following requests:
- Ask the United Nations to take rapid action to stop the war in Gaza.
- Ask Israel to stop its military aggression and withdraw from Palestine, especially from Gaza.
- Ask Israel to respect international humanitarian law which prohibits attacks on civilians in time of war.
- Ask the Palestinian resistance Hamas to stop its attacks on Israel.
- Ask both parties, Israel and Palestine, to find a peaceful solution in Gaza.
- Ask the United Nations to enact strong sanctions against Israel to stop military aggression against the integrity of Palestine, and to withdraw from Palestine.
- Ask the United States to stop military support for Israel, and to follow international consensus to find a peaceful resolution for the conflict in Gaza.
- Ask the Government and President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to take an active role in looking for a peaceful solution for Israel and Palestine.
Responsible: (Dinorah S.X. Granadeiro)
Timor-Leste Solidarity Action for Peace in Palestine
- Asosiasi HAK
- ComissÃ£o Justiza e Paz
- Forum Tau Matan (FTM)
- Front Mahasiswa
- Institutu Edukasaun Popular
- La'o Hamutuk
- Luta Hamutuk
- Mata Dalan Institute (MDI)
 Organizations: Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; Amnesty International Israel Section; Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights; B'tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories; Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement; Hamoked – Center for Defence of the Individual; Physicians for Human Rights - Israel;Public Committee Against Torture in Israel; Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights made a joint declaration to the government of Israel on January 14, 2009, with the title "A Clear and Present Danger - An Israel Call for Urgent Humanitarian Action in Gaza"