UN condemns 'gross human rights violations' in Israel, Palestinian territories

1 min 42Approximate reading time

The United Nations said on Friday gross human rights violations, possibly including war crimes, had been committed in Israel and the Palestinian territories since the start of the war in Gaza.

In its annual report, covering the 12 months to October 31, 2023, the UN Human Rights Office said clear violations of international humanitarian law, "including possible war crimes, have been committed by all parties" since October 7.

"The entrenched impunity reported by our office for decades cannot be permitted to continue," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk.

"There must be accountability on all sides for violations seen over 56 years of (Israeli) occupation and the 16 years of blockade of Gaza."

"Justice is a pre-requisite for ending cycles of violence and for Palestinians and Israelis to be able to take meaningful steps towards peace."

The report cited unlawful killings, hostage-taking, the wanton destruction of civilian property, collective punishment, strikes on civilian infrastructure, forced displacement, incitement to hatred and violence, sexual assault and torture.

The war in Gaza began after the Hamas militant group that controls the Palestinian territory launched an attack on October 7 that killed about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza.

Israel's retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed at least 29,514 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory's Hamas-run health ministry.

In less than five months, much of Gaza has been flattened and its population of around 2.4 million has been pushed to the brink of famine, the UN has said.

- War crimes -

The UN report said the armed wing of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups committed serious violations of international law on October 7 and 8.

It cited "attacks directed against civilians, wilful killing and mistreatment of civilians, wanton destruction of civilian objects, and taking of hostages, which amount to war crimes".

Accounts of rape, sexual assault, and torture required further investigation, it said.

Israel's response has led to "massive suffering of Palestinians, including through the killing of civilians on a broad scale, extensive repeated displacement, destruction of homes, and the denial of sufficient food and other essentials of life", it said.

"The blockade and siege imposed on Gaza amount to collective punishment and may also amount to the use of starvation as a method of war, which are war crimes."

The report identified three "emblematic" Israeli strikes -- two on the Jabalia refugee camp and one in Gaza City -- which caused enormous destruction.

"Launching an indiscriminate attack resulting in death or injury to civilians, or an attack in the knowledge that it will cause excessive incidental civilian loss, injury or damage, are war crimes," said Turk.