'Israel must protect civilians in its war on Hamas': UN investigator

AP , Tuesday 24 Oct 2023

A United Nations special investigator said on Monday Israel is required under international law to protect civilians "in its war on Hamas", and is banned from targeting schools, hospitals and people fleeing harm.



Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, told a UN news conference that when these rules of international humanitarian law are breached, "we are also in the territory of war crimes."

Ní Aoláin, a law professor at University of Minnesota, said Israel should avoid making the same "mistake" the United States did following 9/11, when "egregious and systematic violations of human rights" were committed.

She also echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's view that Israel's order for 1.1 million people in northern Gaza to move to the south "will have devastating consequences."

Ní Aoláin said she and many others in the UN system joined the secretary-general in condemning this, "as well as being clear that the cutting off of water and electricity, which indiscriminately and excessively harm civilians, may constitute a war crime."

The UN called on Tuesday for improved coordination among humanitarian groups in making sure the small amount of aid now moving into the Gaza Strip contained only the most needed items.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said that some of the food delivered into Gaza so far, such as rice and lentils, had been impractical given the dwindling availability of fresh water and fuel.

Israel has continued its intense bombardment of Gaza for 18 consecutive days, killing over 5,000 Palestinians, including approximately 2,000 children.

Numerous buildings have been reduced to rubble, and over a million individuals have been displaced in the besieged territory. Essential resources such as water, food, and other basic supplies are becoming increasingly scarce.

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