Gaza: Unbearable Suffering Of Civilians Demands End To Violence And Resumption Of Dialogue - UN Human Rights Chief
GENEVA (3 December 2023) – The brutal resumption of hostilities in Gaza and its terrifying impact on civilians underscore once again the need for the violence to end, and for a political solution to be found that is built on the only viable long-term basis – the full respect of the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said on Sunday.
“Silence the guns and return to dialogue – the suffering inflicted on civilians is too much to bear. More violence is not the answer. It will bring neither peace nor security,” said Türk, voicing deep concern that negotiations towards a continuation of last week’s pause had reportedly reached an impasse.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombardments since the hostilities resumed on Friday, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Aid was completely blocked from entering Gaza through Rafah on Friday, and very restricted on Saturday. As a result, the already limited aid operations within Gaza largely halted, resulting in a further breakdown of overburdened essential services.
The High Commissioner expressed grave fears that the renewed and intensified hostilities after a seven-day pause would lead to even more death, disease, and destruction than seen so far.
“As a result of Israel’s conduct of hostilities and its orders for people to leave the north and parts of the south, hundreds of thousands are being confined into ever smaller areas in southern Gaza without proper sanitation, access to sufficient food, water and health supplies, even as bombs rain down around them,” Türk said.
“I repeat, there is no safe place in Gaza.”
“International humanitarian law and human rights law are clear that protection of civilians comes first and that rapid, unimpeded humanitarian access through all possible means must be facilitated to alleviate suffering of civilians,” he stressed.
The UN Human Rights Chief also highlighted how hundreds of thousands of people remaining in northern Gaza are at renewed risk of bombardment and continue to be deprived of food and other essentials. Given this appalling situation and the orders to move south, people are essentially being forced to move, in what appears to be an attempt to empty northern Gaza of Palestinians.
“The world bore witness of week upon week of horror since this latest crisis began, marked by extremely grave concerns around wilful killing of civilians, firing of indiscriminate rockets, indiscriminate attacks using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, forms of collective punishment, obstruction of humanitarian aid, and hostage-taking – all forbidden under international law,” said Türk.
Extremely serious allegations of multiple and grave breaches of international law must be fully investigated and those responsible held to account, he said. Where national authorities prove unwilling or unable to carry out such investigations and prosecutions, international investigation is necessary.
Member States must do everything in their power to ensure all parties comply with their obligations under international law and prevent commission of international crimes.
“The time to change course is now. Those that choose to flout international law are on notice that accountability will be served. No-one is above the law,” said the High Commissioner.