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UN rights chief Turk accuses Israel of war crimes in Gaza

UN rights chief Turk accuses Israel of war crimes in Gaza Israeli military tanks patrol around Ein al-Zeitun neighborhood as Israeli attacks continue, in Gaza City, Gaza on June 3, 2024. (AA Photo)
By Anadolu Agency
Jun 20, 2024 8:01 AM

UN human rights chief Volker Turk has accused Israel of consistently failing to use methods of warfare that avoid or minimize civilian harm during its bombing campaign in Gaza.

“The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid or at the very least minimize to every extent civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel’s bombing campaign,” Turk stated on Wednesday.

His remarks followed an assessment by the U.N. Human Rights Office on “six emblematic attacks” by Israeli forces in Gaza last year, which resulted in significant civilian fatalities and extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure.

The U.N. agency suggested that Israel’s military may have repeatedly violated fundamental principles of the laws of war and committed “crimes against humanity” by targeting unlawful sites as part of a systematic attack against civilians.

“Israel’s choices of methods and means of conducting hostilities in Gaza since Oct. 7, including the extensive use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas, have failed to ensure effective distinction between civilians and fighters,” Turk added.

218 verified deaths from initial attacks

The report highlights six attacks where Israel allegedly used bombs weighing up to 2,000 pounds on residential buildings, a school, refugee camps, and a market between Oct. 9 and Dec. 2, according to the U.N.

“The UN Human Rights Office verified 218 deaths from these six attacks and noted that the actual number of fatalities could be much higher,” the statement read.

Turk emphasized that civilian lives and infrastructure are protected under International Humanitarian Law, which obliges parties to prioritize civilian protection in armed conflicts.

On Nov. 11, 2023, the Israeli military reported that since the start of its operation in Gaza, the Air Force had “struck over 5,000 targets to eliminate threats in real-time.”

By that time, Gaza’s Health Ministry had reported 11,078 Palestinian deaths, with another 2,700 missing and approximately 27,490 injured, according to the U.N.

During the attacks, an Israeli army spokesperson reportedly stated, “while balancing accuracy with the scope of damage, right now we’re focused on what causes maximum damage,” the U.N. noted.

Another Israeli military official was quoted as describing “Hamas and the residents of Gaza” as “human beasts” to be “dealt with accordingly.” Israel has imposed a total blockade on Gaza, cutting off electricity and water supplies, leading to significant humanitarian challenges.

Report criticizes Palestinian armed groups

While focusing on Israel, the report also condemned Palestinian armed groups for firing indiscriminate projectiles toward Israel, violating international humanitarian law, and underscored the need to avoid placing military objectives in or near densely populated areas.

Israeli response

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar dismissed the Human Rights Office’s findings, accusing the agency of bias. “This report shows the deep-rooted bias against Israel that has existed in OHCHR for decades. Regardless, Israel will continue to operate under the law, to protect its population against Palestinian terrorists, and bring back home the 120 hostages still held in Hamas’s brutal captivity,” Shahar stated.

Last Updated:  Jul 9, 2024 1:38 AM