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UN Human Rights Chief Deplores Harrowing Killings Of Children And Women In Rafah

GENEVA (23 April 2024) – UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk today decried a series of Israeli strikes on Rafah in the past few days that killed mostly children and women, repeating his warning against a full-scale incursion on an area where 1.2 million civilians have been forcibly cornered.

Such an operation would lead to further breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, he said. It would risk more deaths, injuries and displacement on a large scale – even further atrocity crimes, for which those responsible would be held accountable. Already in March, the Security Council had demanded an immediate ceasefire.

“The world’s leaders stand united on the imperative of protecting the civilian population trapped in Rafah,” the High Commissioner said.

“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.”

On 19 April, an apartment building was hit in Tal Al Sultan area in Rafah, killing nine Palestinians, including six children and two women. Another strike on two adjacent houses in At Tanour area in eastern Rafah on 20 April reportedly killed 20 Palestinians – 15 children and five women. A strike on As Shabora Camp in Rafah on the same day reportedly left four dead, including a girl and a pregnant woman.

As of 22 April, according to the authorities in Gaza, of the 34,151 Palestinians killed in Gaza, 14,685 have been children and 9,670 women. Another 77,084 have been injured, and over 7,000 others are assumed to be under the rubble.

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“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 Türk.

Türk said he was horrified by the destruction of An Nasser Medical Complex and Al Shifa Medical Complex and the reported discovery of mass graves in and around these locations. He 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.”

The High Commissioner said the 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 reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages and those held in arbitrary detention, and the unfettered flow of humanitarian aid.

At the same time, Türk said grave human rights violations were continuing unabated in the occupied West Bank. Despite international condemnation of massive settler attacks from 12-14 April facilitated by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF), settler violence has continued with the support, protection, and participation of the ISF.

During a 50-hour long operation into Nur Shams refugee camp and Tulkarem city starting on 18 April, the ISF deployed ground troops, bulldozers and drones, and sealed the camp. Fourteen Palestinians were killed, three of them children. Ten members of the ISF were hurt.

The UN Human Rights Office received reports that several Palestinians were unlawfully killed and that the ISF used unarmed Palestinians to shield their forces from attack and killed others in apparent extrajudicial executions. Dozens were reportedly detained and ill-treated. The ISF inflicted unprecedented and apparently wanton destruction on the camp and its infrastructure.

On 20 April, the ISF or settlers shot and killed a 50-year-old Palestinian ambulance driver. The ambulance was evacuating two Palestinians injured by live ammunition during an attack by settlers, who were accompanied by the ISF, in As Sawiya, Nablus.

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