Creating new perspectives since 2009

Collective punishment of Palestinian civilians 'amounts to war crime': UN Human Rights chief

November 8, 2023 at 8:04 pm

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk speaks during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on November 8, 2023 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians “amounts to a war crime,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Wednesday, Anadolu Agency reports.

Volker Turk made the remarks following his visit to Rafah crossing, as part of a five-day visit to the Middle East, amid intensifying attacks by Israeli Forces against the Gaza Strip that began on 7 October, after an attack by Hamas. The visit started Tuesday.

The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians

Turk, an Austrian lawyer, said in a media briefing. “The massive bombardments by Israel have killed, injured and injured, in particular, women and children.”

Turk demanded respect for international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws, and noted that “parties to the conflict have the obligation to take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects.”

READ: UN chief says Gaza deaths show something ‘wrong’ with Israel operation

“Attacks against medical facilities, medical personnel and the wounded and sick are prohibited,” he said.

Turk noted the “urgent humanitarian imperative to reach the population increasingly isolated” in Gaza.

The Commissioner also deplored the complete communication blackouts.

Blackouts have serious consequences on rescue workers struggling to find and rescue the victims of strikes, families trying to find out the status of their loved ones and to access emergency medical care, and for the situation on the ground to be monitored and documented

he said, and urged the parties to now agree on a ceasefire.

On Tuesday, Turk stopped at the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, where a trickle of aid trucks has been allowed in recently, but they are just a fraction of the aid that used to be admitted, and far too little to sustain the 2.2 million residents of Gaza.

In addition to relentless airstrikes against Gaza since 7 October, with targets including hospitals, homes, and houses of worship, Israel has also cut off fuel, electricity and water supplies, and at first barred the delivery of all aid.

Weeks ago, Israel also told Gazans in the north Gaza Strip they had to move to the south, despite warnings that doing so would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Despite the many thousands who made the move, bombings of southern Gaza have continued to this day, with observers saying no place in Gaza is safe from Israeli attacks.

READ: Dozens of Palestinians killed in Israeli air strike on UN school in Gaza