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Government’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas


Recent fighting between Israel and the terrorist organisation Hamas has been ongoing since Hamas carried out horrific attacks on civilian men, women and children in Israel on 7 October 2023. Around 1 200 people were killed and more than 200 civilians, including children and elderly people, were taken hostage and removed to Gaza. Israel has suffered the worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust. In the subsequent war, tens of thousands of Palestinians have died, including thousands of children. The human suffering of the civilian population is immense.

Sweden’s response to the war focuses on the following areas:

1. Increased humanitarian assistance to Gaza

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is catastrophic. The needs are acute and immense. 

In the light of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Sweden has increased its humanitarian assistance by approximately SEK 520 million since 7 October 2023. Sweden is also a major donor of core support to several humanitarian organisations on the ground. This support 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. 

For aid to reach those in need, extensive improvements in humanitarian access are needed. This includes more transport routes into Gaza, larger volumes and better possibilities for humanitarian staff and transports to move safely so as to provide help in all parts of Gaza. 

The Government therefore stresses the importance of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to ensure that the humanitarian support reaches those in need. 

At Sweden’s initiative, more than 30 countries have jointly encouraged Israel to allow increased humanitarian access to Gaza and enable better, more secure and sufficiently extensive humanitarian deliveries. Together with other donors, Sweden is in ongoing dialogue with Israel on this matter. 

2. Active participation in multilateral cooperation

Sweden is actively participating in the extensive efforts under way in the EU and the UN. 

When the UN General Assembly most recently voted on a resolution on the situation in Gaza (12 December 2023), Sweden and 152 other states voted in favour. 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 hostages being held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza – something Sweden continues to demand. 

The Government fully supports the conclusions adopted in conjunction with the European Council on 21 March 2024. They call for an immediate humanitarian pause that leads to a lasting ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance. The conclusions also call for Israel to implement the provisional measures indicated by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Sweden’s positions are based on international law. During the war between Israel and Hamas, the Government has continuously urged all parties to comply with international humanitarian law:

  • Israel’s right to defend itself must be exercised in compliance with international law and international humanitarian law.
  • All parties to the conflict have a responsibility under humanitarian law to ensure that the civilian population’s humanitarian needs are met.
  • Civilians must always be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law. Direct attacks on civilians and civilian property are unlawful. Civilians must not be used as human shields. The principles of distinction between civilian objects and military objectives, proportionality and precaution must always be applied.
  • Hospitals and hospital transports enjoy special protection under international humanitarian law. 

The extent of the fighting’s consequences for the civilian population in Gaza raises serious questions as to whether international humanitarian law has been complied with in consideration of the many dead children, damage to hospitals and schools and the number of journalists killed. Whether international humanitarian law has been complied with is a question best settled by judicial authorities. 

3. EU sanctions against Hamas

Hamas has been on the EU list of terrorist organisations for more than 20 years. The Government supports and actively participates in the work in progress among the EU Member States on additional measures against Hamas. For example, the EU has imposed sanctions against leading Hamas representatives. A special sanctions regime was adopted following 7 October aimed at more effectively cutting off funding to the terrorist organisation. 

4. Settler violence

Sweden and the EU are deeply concerned by the growing settler violence in the West Bank and the expansion of settlements. The settlement policy is in violation of international law, undermines the two-state solution and contributes to an elevated conflict level. It is critical that Israel, like other states, lives up to the requirements set out under international law. Deaths must be investigated and accountability ensured. The Government therefore welcomes that the EU has reached a political agreement to impose sanctions on extremist settlers who carry out acts of violence against civilians. 

5. Support of peace efforts that lead to a two-state solution

Lasting peace between Israel and Palestine must build on a two-state solution. Sweden supports the EU’s work, engagement and initiative to establish a credible process for a negotiated two-state solution in collaboration with regional actors and the UN, among others

Joint diplomatic efforts are important to counter additional escalation and ripple effects in the region. This means stopping recurring cycles of violence, addressing the underlying causes of the conflict and helping to increase trust between Israelis and Palestinians. 

A negotiated two-state solution where Israel and Palestine can coexist side-by-side is and remains the only sustainable path towards peace and security.


This text was originally published on November 2, 2023 but has been updated.