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Palestinians inspect destroyed buildings following an Israeli airstrike on Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip Alamy Stock Photo
Jabalia refugee camp

UN says Israeli strikes on Gaza refugee camp, the second in two days, could be war crimes

Israeli strikes have targeted the Jabalia refugee camp twice in two days, killing and wounding dozens.

DEADLY ISRAELI AIR strikes on the Gaza Strip’s largest refugee camp “could amount to war crimes”, the UN Human Rights Office said today.

Israeli strikes have targeted the Jabalia refugee camp twice in two days, killing and wounding dozens, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

Israel said yesterday’s raid was a successful hit on top Hamas commander Ibrahim Biari.

“Given the high number of civilian casualties & the scale of destruction following Israeli air strikes on Jabalia refugee camp, we have serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes,” the office wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel has relentlessly pounded Gaza in retribution for the worst attack in the country’s history.

Hamas gunmen stormed across the border from Gaza on 7 October, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking more than 230 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign has killed 8,796 people, mainly women and children, according to Hamas-run Gaza’s health ministry.

The principle of proportionality referred to by the UN plays a central role in the wars of law defined by the Geneva Conventions.

Civilians and civilian structures must be spared – but the death of civilians during a conflict does not necessarily constitute a war crime.

Warring parties can launch attacks deemed proportionate on military targets even while knowing that civilians could also be hit.

A crime is committed when an attack is deliberately carried out against civilians, or if the scale of the damage to civilians is excessive compared to the military advantage.

The International Criminal Court is the only independent international legal authority that carries out investigations into genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but Israel is not a member.

palestinians-carry-a-wounded-girl-after-being-rescued-from-under-the-rubble-of-buildings-that-were-destroyed-by-israeli-airstrikes-in-jabaliya-refugee-camp-northern-gaza-strip-wednesday-nov-1-202 Palestinians carry a wounded girl after being rescued from under the rubble of buildings that were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Images from today’s strike on the camp showed extensive damage and rescuers clawing through rubble to extract blood-stained casualties.

The large death toll from the strikes has drawn a chorus of international condemnation, with Bolivia severing diplomatic ties with Israel in protest.

A spokesperson for UN chief Antonio Guterres said he is “appalled over the escalating violence in Gaza, including the killing of Palestinians, including women and children in Israeli air strikes in residential areas of the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp”.

France calls for humanitarian truce

The French government has said it is “deeply concerned” about Israeli strikes on the refugee camp.

“France is deeply concerned about the very heavy toll on the Palestinian civilian population from the Israeli strikes against the Jabalia camp, and expresses its compassion for the victims,” the government said in a press release.

Paris reiterated a call for “an immediate humanitarian truce so that aid can reach those who need it in a sustainable, safe and adequate way”.

Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel “to condemn the Israeli war that is killing innocent people in Gaza”.

The last time Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel was in 2019.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said the country “regrets the decision of the Jordanian government to recall its ambassador”.

Since the war began, Jordan has seen several large protests in support of Gaza, with demonstrators demanding that it annul the peace treaty with Israel and close the Israeli embassy.

Yesterday, US President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a key US partner, with the two discussing “urgent mechanisms to stem violence, calm rhetoric and reduce regional tensions”, the White House said.

Biden and King Abdullah “discussed urgent mechanisms to stem violence, calm rhetoric, and reduce regional tensions”, and agreed it was “critical to ensure that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced outside of Gaza”, a White House statement said.

jenin-palestine-01st-nov-2023-palestinians-inspect-the-damage-of-the-buildings-and-streets-following-an-israeli-military-raid-in-jenin-refugee-camp-in-the-occupied-northern-west-bank-according-to Palestinians inspect the damage of the buildings and streets following an Israeli military raid in Jenin refugee camp in the occupied northern West Bank. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Hamas said seven of the 240 hostages it is holding, including three foreign passport holders, died in yesterday’s bombing, a claim impossible to verify.

The group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh accused Israel of committing “barbaric massacres against unarmed civilians”, saying it was covering its own “defeats”.


Meanwhile, hundreds of injured residents and foreigners escaped Gaza to Egypt today, the first evacuations from the war-torn Palestinian territory pounded by Israeli warplanes in retaliation for an unprecedented Hamas attack.

AFP reporters at Gaza’s southern border saw ambulances whisking away the wounded to Egyptian field hospitals, including one young boy with heavy bandaging around his stomach.

Whole families, struggling to carry their worldly possessions, rushed through the heavily fortified crossing towards Egypt, which said it had admitted 335 foreigners or dual nationals and 76 seriously wounded and sick people.

The foreigners included 31 Austrians, five French nationals, four Italians, and some German and US citizens, their governments said.

Jordanian citizen Umm Saleh Hussein said water and electricity shortages were “the least” of the hardships Gazans were facing.

“There were bigger problems such as the bombardment. We were afraid. Many families were martyred,” she told AFP.

A group of mostly women and children were the first to arrive in Egypt, with TV images showing parents with pushchairs and elderly people clambering off a bus.

rafah-palestinian-territories-01st-nov-2023-people-wait-at-the-border-crossing-between-the-gaza-strip-and-egypt-in-rafah-injured-palestinians-palestinians-with-second-passports-and-foreign-natio People wait at the border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in Rafah. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“It’s enough. We’ve endured enough humiliation,” said Gaza resident Rafik al-Hilou, accompanying relatives including children aged one and four hoping to enter Egypt.

“We lack the most basic human needs. No internet, no phones, no means of communication, not even water. For the past four days, we haven’t been able to feed this child a piece of bread. What are you waiting for?”

‘No hope in Gaza’

The situation in Gaza remained desperate, with food, fuel and medicine for the 2.4 million residents all running short, according to aid groups.

The fuel shortage and damage due to air strikes meant “the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, the main cancer centre in the Gaza Strip, is no longer functional”, the World Health Organization said on X.

A Gaza official said about 50 trucks carrying medical and food aid entered Gaza today, among the biggest daily flows so far, but far fewer than humanitarian groups say is needed.

Palestinian residents told AFP they had evacuated from northern Gaza, as demanded by Israel, but were still under threat.

“We’ve been told people are evacuating from Gaza City towards the central area of the strip beyond the valley, so we headed there,” Amen al-Aqluk said.

“After 20 days, we were bombarded. Three of our kids lost their lives and we all got injured.

“There is no hope in the Gaza Strip. It is not safe any more here. When the border opens, everybody will leave and emigrate. We encounter death every day, 24 hours a day.”

The head of the UN agency that works to help Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, managed to reach Gaza today via the Rafah border crossing.

“I was shocked by the fact that everyone there was asking for food, was asking for water,” Lazzarini, the most senior UN official allowed into the besieged territory since the war began, told journalists in Gaza.

With fears mounting of a regional war, Biden called for “urgent mechanisms” to dial down tensions and said top diplomat Antony Blinken would embark on another Middle East tour from Friday.

Turkey and Iran called for a regional conference to prevent a conflagration, as Israel faces a daily barrage of aerial attacks from Hamas and other Iran-backed groups around the Middle East, including Yemen’s Huthi rebels.

In the north, Israel has traded near-daily fire with Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

And the families of hostages kidnapped by Hamas have endured an unbearable wait for news of relatives thought to be held in the labyrinth of tunnels deep below Gaza.

Ayelet Sella, whose seven cousins were kidnapped by Hamas, said she could find “no rest” until her loved ones are returned.

“We have no more tears, our eyes are dry, we are empty three weeks on,” Sella told AFP at the Great Synagogue in Paris. “I only ask for one thing, that they come back.”

© AFP 2023