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UN rights commissioner slams Israel’s killing of women, children in Rafah

April 24, 2024 at 10:49 am

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk leaves a press conference in Geneva, on December 6, 2023 [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, yesterday deplored the Israeli raids on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, saying the killing of women and children “is something that goes beyond warfare.”

On Saturday evening, Israel carried out two air strikes on two homes, one east of Rafah and the other in its centre, killing 24 people, most of them children and women, according to Palestinian sources.

Turk said the potential Israeli military operation in Rafah “will lead to more violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and to more terrible crimes for which those responsible will be held accountable.”

“The latest images of a premature child taken from the womb of her dying mother, of the adjacent two houses where 15 children and five women were killed – this is beyond warfare,” the top UN official said, stressing that “the world’s leaders stand united on the imperative of protecting the civilian population trapped in Rafah.”

“Every 10 minutes a child is killed or wounded. They are protected under the laws of war, and yet they are ones who are disproportionately paying the ultimate price in this war,” said Turk, adding that he was “horrified” by the destruction of the Nasser and Al-Shifa Medical Complexes and the reported “discovery of mass graves in and around these locations” and called for “independent, effective and transparent investigations into the deaths.”

“Given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators,” he added. “Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law. And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees, and others who are hors de combat is a war crime.”

On Monday, the Civil Defence Service in the Gaza Strip announced that the bodies of 283 people had been recovered from a mass grave in the Nasser Medical Complex in the city of Khan Yunis, south of the Strip, after the Israeli army’s withdrawal from the complex.

The UN Commissioner stressed that “unspeakable suffering caused by the fighting – alongside the resulting misery and destruction, starvation and disease, and the risk of wider conflict – must end once and for all.”

He also reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages and those held in arbitrary detention, and the unfettered flow of humanitarian aid.

READ: UNICEF calls for an immediate end to the killing of children in Palestine