GENEVA – The UN on Friday urged Israel to put an end to its “collective punishment” of the entire population of Gaza, noting that collective punishment is a “war crime.”
“A humanitarian catastrophe unfolds for the 2.2 million people locked inside Gaza who are being collectively punished,” UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told a press conference in Geneva.
“Collective punishment is a war crime,” Shamdasani warned and said: “Israel’s collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza must immediately cease.”
The use of “dehumanizing language” against Palestinians must also be halted, she underlined.
She also voiced concern over the evacuation of people in Gaza from north to south, saying such evacuation could be considered a “forcible transfer.”
“Despite its repeated orders to residents of northern Gaza to move to the south, suggesting it is safe, Israeli forces strikes’ on to southern governorates and middle Gaza have intensified in recent days,” the spokesperson said. “Meanwhile, heavy strikes on northern communities including in Gaza City continue. Nowhere is safe in Gaza.”
“Compelling people to evacuate in these circumstances … while under a complete siege raises serious concerns over forcible transfer, which is a war crime,” Shamdasani warned.
Regarding the Israeli use of explosive weapons, she said that such weapons “with wide area effects in densely populated areas has caused extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and loss of civilian lives.”
“That by all appearances is difficult to reconcile with international humanitarian law,” she said.
“We are concerned that war crimes are being committed,” she said, adding they are not only concerned about the collective punishment of Gazans, but also “atrocious attacks” by Hamas, which also “amounted to war crimes.”
The conflict in Gaza began when the Palestinian group Hamas initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood – a multi-pronged surprise attack on Oct. 7 that included a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel by land, sea, and air.
Hamas said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and growing violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.
The Israeli military then launched a relentless bombardment of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
Nearly 8,500 people have been killed in the conflict, including at least 7,028 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis. -AA