However, it is up to an independent court to qualify military actions in Gaza, a spokeswoman for the agency says
Both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict could be committing war crimes, Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), has said.
During a press conference in Geneva on Friday, Shamdasani was asked if the Israeli bombing of Gaza in response to the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7 could be characterized as “genocide.”
The spokesperson avoided a direct answer, but said her agency was “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.”
She also stressed that the UN “at this point can’t go further than that,” adding that it was up to an independent court of law to determine whether war crimes have taken place.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been bombarding Gaza relentlessly since Hamas fighters infiltrated Israel three weeks ago, killing around 1,400 people and taking more than 230 others hostage.
According to the Health Ministry in the Palestinian enclave, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have already led to the death of 7,028 people, including 2,913 children. The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, told reporters in Jerusalem on Friday that the ministry’s figures have always been viewed as “credible.”
Shamdasani also read out a statement from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, in which he called on all sides of the conflict “to heed the calls for peace.”
The statement included condemnation of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and its blockade of the enclave, as well as criticism of Israel’s calls for Palestinians to evacuate the targeted areas.
“Nowhere is safe in Gaza. Compelling people to evacuate in these circumstances… and while under a complete siege raises serious concerns over forcible transfer, which is a war crime,” the statement read.
The Israeli bombardment “in densely populated areas has caused extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and loss of civilian lives that, by all appearances, is difficult to reconcile with international humanitarian law,” it added.
Israeli officials have denied accusations of unlawful conduct in Gaza, while accusing Hamas fighters of hiding behind civilians. Earlier this week, Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told German tabloid Bild that “we are humane people. We are the most moral military in the world.” Israel does not want to harm the Palestinians, he claimed, saying the only goal is to “overwhelm” Hamas.