Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Gaza/Israel: Türk appeals to all sides to heed the calls for peace
27 October 2023
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk is appealing to all sides to heed the calls for peace. The violence needs to end and there need to be strong efforts to seek an alternative to this carnage.
For almost three weeks now, Palestinian civilians in Gaza have endured relentless bombing by Israel from air, land and sea. Thousands killed, lying dead amongst destroyed residential buildings, mosques and bakeries. We receive harrowing testimonies of entire families killed by airstrikes on their homes including the families of our own staff members. Of parents writing children’s names on their arms to identify their future remains. Of the terrifying, sleepless nights people are spending in the open air, as airstrikes continue overhead. We mourn the loss of 57 UN colleagues and so many more civilians who are clearly, disproportionately impacted.
Despite its repeated orders to residents of northern Gaza to move to the south, suggesting it is safe, Israeli Forces’ strikes on two southern Governorates and Middle Gaza have intensified in recent days. Meanwhile, heavy strikes on northern communities, including in Gaza city, continue.
Nowhere is safe in Gaza.
Compelling people to evacuate in these circumstances, including to places such as “the Israeli designated area” of Al Mawasi, and while under a complete siege raises serious concerns over forcible transfer, which is a war crime.
Israel’s use of explosive 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.
Collective punishment is occurring through the choking-off of water, food, fuel and electricity. Fuel shortages forcing the closure of hospitals and bakeries. People forced into shelters in increasingly dire conditions; overcrowded, with poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water, bringing forward the specter of disease outbreak. A humanitarian catastrophe unfolds for the 2.2 million people locked inside Gaza who are being collectively punished.
Collective punishment is a war crime. Israel’s collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza must immediately cease. The use of dehumanizing language against Palestinians must also be halted.
Indiscriminate attacks by Palestinian armed groups, including through the launching of unguided rockets into Israel, must stop. They must immediately and unconditionally release all civilians who were captured and are still being held. The taking of hostages is also a war crime.
The High Commissioner is appealing for efforts to seek human rights-based, lasting pathways towards peace for the people of Palestine and Israel. Efforts must be made to bring this escalation to an immediate end. It is of utmost importance that all those with influence negotiate a way out of this protracted, disastrous situation.
Peace, security and justice will not be found down this current path. The cycle of vengeance and bloodshed needs to end.