Comment By UN High Commissioner For Human Rights Volker Türk On Gaza

Published: Mon 20 Nov 2023 09:42 AM
The horrendous events of the past 48 hours in Gaza beggar belief.
The killing of so many people at schools turned shelters, hundreds fleeing for their lives from Al-Shifa Hospital, amid continuing displacement of hundreds of thousands in southern Gaza, are actions which fly in the face of the basic protections civilians must be afforded under international law.
Images purportedly taken in the aftermath of the reported Israeli strike on Al Fakhoura school are horrifying, clearly showing large numbers of women, children and men severely wounded or killed. At least three other schools hosting displaced Palestinians have also been attacked in the past 48 hours.
Israeli military operations have been continuing inside and around Al Shifa hospital. UN colleagues visited the site yesterday, and witnessed first-hand what they described as a ‘death zone’. Medical personnel, patients, and civilians have fled the hospital, ordered to do so by the Israeli military. Hundreds were seen making their way south on foot, at great risk to their lives, health and safety. And to where? Nowhere is safe in Gaza.
In Khan Younis, the Israeli Defense Forces are dropping leaflets demanding residents go to unspecified “recognized shelters”, even as strikes take place across Gaza. Already displaced Palestinians - deprived by extreme restrictions on life-saving assistance - are struggling to meet their basic needs, forced into ever-diminishing, over-crowded, unsanitary unsafe spaces. Irrespective of warnings, Israel is obliged to protect civilians wherever they are.
Rules of international humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in carrying out the attacks must be strictly adhered to. Failure to adhere to these rules may constitute war crimes.
The pain, dread, and fear etched on the faces of children, women and men is too much to bear. How much more violence, bloodshed and misery will it take before people come to their senses? How many more civilians will be killed?
This must stop.
Humanity must come first. A ceasefire - on humanitarian and human rights grounds - is desperately needed. Now.

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