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Palestinians search for survivors and the bodies of victims through the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israeli bombardment, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip Alamy Stock Photo

UN raises war crimes concerns over Israel-Hamas conflict

The comes as EU leaders have demanded “humanitarian corridors and pauses” in Israel’s war against Hamas.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Oct 2023

THE UNITED NATIONS has expressed concern that war crimes were being committed on both sides in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The UN human rights office cited forcible transfer, collective punishment and the taking of hostages as the war continued into its 21st day.

“We are concerned that war crimes are being committed. We are concerned about the collective punishment of Gazans in response to the atrocious attacks by Hamas, which also amounted to war crimes,” spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a press conference in Geneva.

She said that it was for an independent court of law to qualify whether war crimes had been committed.

Israel has heavily bombarded Gaza since Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, kidnapping more than 220 others, according to Israeli officials.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said the strikes have killed more than 7,000 people, mainly civilians and many of them children, leading to growing calls for protection of innocents caught up in the conflict.

Israel has cut supplies of food, water and power to Gaza, notably blocking all deliveries of fuel saying it would be exploited by Hamas to manufacture weapons and explosives.

Israel’s army called on people in the north of the Gaza Strip – nearly half of its 2.4 million population – to head south ahead of an expected ground offensive.


Israeli ground forces backed by fighter jets and drones carried out a night-time targeted raid in central Gaza Strip, the army has said, as it prepares for a land invasion.

“During the last day, IDF (Israel Defense Forces) ground forces, accompanied by IDF fighter jets and UAVs, conducted an additional targeted raid in the central Gaza Strip,” the army said in a statement.

“As part of the activity, IDF aircraft and artillery struck terror targets belonging to the Hamas terrorist organisation in the Shujaiya area and throughout the Gaza Strip.”

Concern is growing about the regional fallout from the conflict, with Washington warning Iran against escalation while striking facilities in Syria it says were used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and others.

Just 74 trucks of food, water and medicine have been permitted to enter Gaza, home to 2.4 million people, since the conflict began – a figure described by aid groups as vastly insufficient.

Before the conflict, around 500 trucks entered daily, according to the United Nations.

12 of the territory’s 35 hospitals have been forced to close, and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has started to “significantly reduce its operations”.

“Without fuel, there will be no humanitarian response, no aid reaching people in need, no electricity for hospitals, no access to clean water, and no availability of bread,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said.

‘Impossible choices’

Israel defends its operations, with staunch backing from allies including Washington, and has demanded Hamas release 224 foreign and Israeli hostages it seized on 7 October.

The fate of the hostages remains a complicating factor for Israel’s planned ground operation.

Hamas’s armed wing said yesterday that “almost 50″ Israeli hostages had been killed in Israeli bombing raids, a claim that AFP could not verify.

Four hostages have been released, but for relatives of those left behind, the anguish continues.

“Our lives stopped,” said Moran Betzer Tayar, of the day her nephew and his wife were abducted.

black-smoke-raise-from-eastern-gaza-city-thursday-oct-26-2023-following-israeli-airstrikes-ap-photoabed-khaled Black smoke raise from Eastern Gaza City Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

She told a press conference in France she was “worried sick” and desperate to keep the fate of the hostages in the public eye.

Rights groups and international organisations have demanded the immediate release of hostages, who include women and children.

Inside Gaza, the punishing strikes have left people “with nothing but impossible choices” the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory said Thursday.

“Nowhere is safe in Gaza,” Lynne Hastings said in a statement.

Homes damaged

Around 45% of all housing in Gaza has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN, citing local authorities, and satellite images show vast swathes of destruction.

Rahma Saqallah fled south with her family, heeding Israeli warnings. But after strikes killed her husband and three of her children, she was heading back home.

Hamas yesterday released a list of almost 7,000 names of people it said had been killed in Israeli strikes, after US President Joe Biden cast doubt on the toll from the territory.

The list of 6,747 names gave the age, sex and identity card number of each victim, adding that 281 bodies had not yet been identified. Another 1,600 people, including 900 children, are missing and may be under rubble, according to the UN, citing local authorities.

The war’s surging death toll is by far the highest since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the coastal territory in 2005 – a period that has seen four previous Gaza wars.

© AFP 2023