Time running out to prevent Gaza ‘genocide’, say UN-mandated experts

Time running out to prevent Gaza ‘genocide’, say UN-mandated experts
Time running out to prevent Gaza ‘genocide’, say UN-mandated experts

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - People queue for bread in front of a bakery that was partially destroyed in an Israeli strike, in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, on November 2, 2023, as battles continue between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. — AFP pic

GENEVA, Nov 3 — A group of UN-mandated human rights experts, including the special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, said Thursday “time is running out to prevent genocide and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza”, which Israel called Hamas “propaganda”.

Israel has heavily bombarded Gaza after Hamas militants carried out an unprecedented attack last month.

Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping at least 240 others, including children, according to Israeli officials.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign, mostly women and children.

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“We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide,” the experts said in a joint statement.

“Israel’s allies also bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action.”

UN special rapporteurs are unpaid, independent figures mandated by the Human Rights Council. They do not speak for the United Nations but report their findings to it as part of the council’s fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms.

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“The situation in Gaza has reached a catastrophic tipping point,” the experts said, warning of the “dire need” for food, water, medicine, fuel and essential supplies and the risk of looming health hazards.

The statement was signed by Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.

The other signatories were the special rapporteurs on safe drinking water; food; physical and mental health; internally displaced persons; freedom of expression; and on contemporary racism.

Israel’s embassy in Geneva said on X, formerly Twitter, that it was “deplorable and deeply concerning” that UN special procedure mechanisms “repeated propaganda” led by Hamas.

‘Even wars have rules’

The UN experts called for the immediate release of all civilians being held captive since the Hamas attack.

“All parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law,” they said.

“We demand a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure that aid reaches those who need it the most. A ceasefire also means channels of communication can be opened to ensure the release of hostages,” the experts said.

Gaza’s Hamas-ruled government said 195 people were killed in two days of Israeli strikes on Jabalia, Gaza’s largest refugee camp, with hundreds more missing and wounded — figures AFP could not independently verify.

The UN experts voiced “deepening horror” about the strikes, calling them “a brazen violation of international law — and a war crime”.

“Attacking a camp sheltering civilians including women and children is a complete breach of the rules of proportionality and distinction between combatants and civilians,” the special rapporteurs said.

“Israel and Palestinian armed groups must bear in mind that even wars have rules.”

The Israeli embassy in Geneva said Israel “makes every effort to mitigate harm to civilians in Gaza, which are continuously and systematically used by Hamas terrorists as human shields”.

“Instead of endorsing the Hamas narrative, we call on the international community to condemn Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields and to condemn the diversion of humanitarian aid for its terrorist operations.” — AFP

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