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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Fears over Gaza catastrophe as brutal conflict enters sixth month

08 March 2024

Palestinian boys make their way through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement © Photo by AFP


Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Jeremy Laurence



Today we are entering the sixth month of a brutal conflict that has destroyed the lives and homes of countless Palestinians, as well as Israelis. We fear that this already catastrophic situation may slide deeper into the abyss as many Palestinians mark the holy month of Ramadan – a period that is meant to honour peace and tolerance – should Israel launch its threatened military offensive into Rafah, where 1.5 million people have been displaced in deplorable sub-human conditions.

Any ground assault on Rafah would incur massive loss of life and would heighten the risk of further atrocity crimes. This must not be allowed to happen. We also fear that further Israeli restrictions on access by Palestinians to East Jerusalem and Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan could further inflame tensions.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights repeats that there must be an immediate end to this conflict, and that the killing and destruction must stop.

The hostages, who have now endured over 150 days of suffering and torment, must be released unconditionally and returned to their distraught families.

Israel, as the occupying power, must – we repeat - fully comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law to provide the increasingly desperate civilian population of Gaza with the necessary food and medical supplies, or, if it is unable to do so, ensure that the population has access to critical life-saving humanitarian assistance commensurate with their needs.

Border crossings and corridors must be fully opened and steps must be taken to ensure the free and secure movement of aid convoys to civilians wherever they are located within the Gaza strip if wider starvation and needless suffering are to be averted.

Since 7 October, parties to this conflict have paid little heed to international law that protects human rights and governs the conduct of hostilities. This has been a stain on the collective conscience of humanity. The laws of war are clear and must be respected at all times and in all circumstances. Those who violate them must be held to account.

The High Commissioner reminds all States parties that under Article 1, common to the four Geneva Conventions, they have the obligation to respect and ensurerespect for the rules laid down by those Conventions. This obligation includes not only taking all available steps to ensure full compliance by the parties engaged in hostilities, but also means that States must not, through their own policies or actions, facilitate the commission of violations of humanitarian law.

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva

Jeremy Laurence - +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected] or
Ravina Shamdasani - +41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or
Liz Throssell - +41 22 917 9296 / [email protected]

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