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UN experts say Israeli actions in Gaza ‘violation of international humanitarian law’

UN experts say Israeli actions in Gaza ‘violation of international humanitarian law’

Palestinians work to remove debris as they search for bodies at a house destroyed in an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 19, 2023. — Reuters
Palestinians work to remove debris as they search for bodies at a house destroyed in an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 19, 2023. — Reuters

GENEVA: Following the devastating loss of over 500 innocent lives as a result of an Israeli air strike on a hospital and a school in Gaza, UN experts denounced the “unspeakably cruel” Israeli actions as “crimes against humanity” on Thursday.

They expressed horror over the deadly strike at Al Ahli Arab Hospital, as the incident is said to have happened in response to two threats from Israel that if the hospital’s patients were not evacuated, there would be an impending attack.

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Israeli forces have been firing nonstop into Gaza as retaliation for an attack on October 7 by Hamas that, according to Israel, killed at least 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

Since then, at least 3,785 Palestinians have died in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israeli bombing; the majority of these victims were civilians including children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The UN experts said that they were “equally outraged” at the deadly strike on two densely populated refugee camps and the school in Al Maghazi refugee camp, which housed about 4,000 displaced people, on the same day, calling the missile attack on the health facility an “atrocity.”

They brought up grave legal and humanitarian issues regarding Israel’s 16-year blockade of the enclave, its inhabitants, and its ongoing occupation, which has left 2.2 million people without access to basic supplies like food, fuel, water, electricity, and medication.

Prenatal and postnatal care is desperately needed for an estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, and there are an estimated one million internally displaced persons living in the Gaza Strip.

The UN experts reminded everyone that starvation of civilians is forbidden by international humanitarian law and has been repeatedly denounced by the UN Security Council as a means of warfare.

“The unlawful denial of humanitarian access and depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival are also a violation of international humanitarian law,” the experts warned.

The UN experts called for the protection of all humanitarian workers after the World Health Organization (WHO) documented more than 136 attacks on health care services in the occupied Palestinian territory, including 59 attacks on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of at least 16 health workers since October 7.

Israeli bombardment on Gaza has also killed 15 staff of the United Nations Refugee Works Agency (UNRWA) and four Palestine Red Crescent paramedics in an ambulance. An ambulance driver of Magen David Adom in Israel lost his life while driving to treat injured people.

“The complete siege of Gaza coupled with unfeasible evacuation orders and forcible population transfers, is a violation of international humanitarian and criminal law. It is also unspeakably cruel,” the experts said.

They recalled that the wilful and systematic destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, known as “domicide”, and cutting off drinking water, medicine, and essential food is clearly prohibited under international criminal law, The News reported.

“We are sounding the alarm: There is an ongoing campaign by Israel resulting in crimes against humanity in Gaza. Considering statements made by Israeli political leaders and their allies, accompanied by military action in Gaza and escalation of arrests and killing in the West Bank, there is also a risk of genocide against the Palestine people,” they noted.

“There are no justifications or exceptions for such crimes. We are appalled by the inaction of the international community in the face of belligerent war-mongering,” the experts said.

“The Gazan population, half of whom are children, have already suffered many decades of unlawful brutal occupation and lived under the blockade for 16 years,” the experts said.

“It is time to immediately cease fire and ensure urgent and unimpeded access to essential humanitarian supplies, including food, water, shelter, medicine, fuel and electricity. The physical safety of the civilian population must be guaranteed,” the experts said.

“The occupation needs to end and there must be reparation, restitution and reconstruction, towards full justice for Palestinians,” they said.

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