Saturday, October 28, 2023

UN Rights Chief Condemns Israeli Gaza ‘Siege’ & Militants’ Hostage-Taking


Israeli Retaliatory Air Strikes Hit Residential Buildings and Schools in Gaza Strip, Says UN Human Rights Chief

In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israeli retaliatory air strikes have targeted residential buildings and schools across the Gaza Strip, according to UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk. Turk also condemned the “horrifying mass killings by members of Palestinian armed groups” and highlighted that the militants’ abduction of hostages was illegal under international law.

The Israeli military has called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists and imposed a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, indicating a possible ground assault in response to the devastating weekend attacks by Hamas gunmen. Israel’s air attacks, which are the worst in the 75-year history of its conflict with the Palestinians, have also hit premises of the UN relief and works agency, UNRWA, resulting in civilian casualties.

Israel has vowed to take “mighty revenge” after the Hamas attack left its streets strewn with bodies. Israeli media reports suggest that 900 people were killed in the attacks, with the majority being civilians. Gaza officials claim that nearly 700 Gazans were killed in Israeli strikes, with entire districts in Gaza flattened.

Israel’s defense forces have stated that their aircraft targeted military sites, including weapons storage and manufacturing facilities. However, Turk argues that Israel’s imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of essential goods is prohibited under international humanitarian law. He warns that such acts may amount to a war crime and could seriously compound the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The UN Human Rights spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani, clarified that a siege may amount to “collective punishment.” The findings of the UN rights office are based on a review of available material, including reports from its own monitors on the ground. Additionally, a UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry has stated that there is clear evidence that war crimes may have been committed by all sides in the conflict and is collecting evidence for future legal accountability.

The conflict has resulted in a significant displacement of people, with approximately 187,500 individuals fleeing their homes in Gaza. The UN humanitarian office has expressed concern about shortages of water and electricity in the region. UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, warns that measures to cut off essential supplies will add another layer of suffering to the existing catastrophe faced by families in Gaza. The agency’s spokesperson, James Elder, also highlights that hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian children have been killed since the weekend.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 13 attacks on health facilities in Gaza have been confirmed since the start of hostilities. The WHO is working on establishing a humanitarian corridor for the Gaza Strip, but medical supplies have already run out.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate, with both sides facing accusations of war crimes. The international community has called for an immediate ceasefire and a peaceful resolution to the conflict. However, the situation remains volatile, and the impact on civilians, especially children, is devastating. The UN and other humanitarian organizations are working tirelessly to provide aid and support to those affected by the conflict.

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