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States must adhere to obligations under Genocide Convention to prevent further loss of life in Gaza, says Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese

26 March 2024

GENEVA (26 March 2024) – Israel has destroyed Gaza during five months of military operations, the Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory, Francesca Albanese said today.

“The harrowing number of deaths, the irreparable harm done to those who survive, the systematic destruction of every aspect necessary to sustain life in Gaza – from hospitals to schools, from homes to arable land – and the particular harm to hundreds of thousands of children, and to pregnant and young mothers – this can only be interpreted as constituting prima facie evidence of an intention to systematically destroy the Palestinians as a group,” said Albanese said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council today.

Following an analysis of Israel’s actions and patterns of violence in its onslaught on Gaza, underpinned by dehumanising rhetoric by high-ranking Israeli officials and often reflected in soldiers’ actions on the ground, the Special Rapporteur’s report found that the threshold indicating Israel’s commission of genocide had been met.

Since 7 October, Israel has killed over 32,333 Palestinians, including more than 13,000 children. Over 12,000 are presumed dead under the rubble and 74,694 wounded, many with life-changing injuries. Seventy percent of residential areas have been destroyed. Eighty percent of the entire population has been forcibly displaced. Thousands of families have lost loved ones or been wiped out entirely. Many could not bury and mourn their relatives and were forced instead to leave their bodies decomposing in homes, in the street or under the rubble. Thousands of Palestinians have been detained and systematically subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Two million have been forced into hunger and starvation.

“The incalculable collective trauma will be experienced for generations to come,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The vehement anti-Palestinian discourse, which frames the entire Palestinian people in Gaza as enemies to be eradicated and forcibly removed has been pervasive across all segments of Israeli society, the expert said.

“Calls for violent annihilation from Israeli high-ranking officials with command authority aimed at soldiers on duty on the ground serve as compelling evidence of explicit and public encouragement to commit genocide,” Albanese said.

One of the key findings of Albanese’s report is that Israel's executive and military leadership and soldiers have intentionally distorted foundational rules of international humanitarian law - distinction, proportionality and precaution - in an attempt to legitimise genocidal violence against the Palestinian people.

“By deliberately redefining the categories of human shields, evacuation orders, safe zones, collateral damage and medical protection, Israel has used their protective functions as ‘humanitarian camouflage’ to conceal its genocidal campaign,” she said.

“Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza is an escalatory stage of a long-standing settler colonial process of erasure,” said Albanese.

“For over 70 years, this process has suffocated the Palestinians as a people – demographically, culturally, economically and politically – crushing their inalienable right to self-determination in an attempt to displace them and expropriate and control their lands,” she said.

“The ongoing Nakba must be stopped and remedied once and for all.”

Albanese said her report was a call to the world to ensure that Israel and third states adhere to their non-derogable obligations under the Genocide Convention, to prevent further loss of life, help survivors rebuild their lives, and ensure full accountability under both individual criminal and State responsibility.

“This is an imperative owed to the victims of this highly preventable tragedy, and to future generations in Palestine,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Ms. Francesca Albanese is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page: Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.

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