UNITED NATIONS - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, has appealed for restraint in the face of an Israeli military incursion in Rafah, warning of the risk of further atrocity crimes in the Gaza war.
Nearly 1.5 million people are now crammed into the southern city on the border with Egypt, and with nowhere further to flee. A potential full-fledged incursion in Rafah “is terrifying, given the prospect that an extremely high number of civilians, again mostly children and women, will likely be killed and injured,” Turk warned on Monday. “Today, sadly, given the carnage wrought so far in Gaza it is wholly imaginable what would lie ahead in Rafah,” he added.
The incursion may also mean the end of the “meager” humanitarian aid entering Gaza, with huge implications, including for hundreds of thousands of people in the north of the enclave who are at grave risk of starvation and famine.
“My Office has repeatedly warned against actions that violate the laws of war. The prospect of such an operation into Rafah, as circumstances stand, risks further atrocity crimes,” Turk said. The UN rights chief urged Israel to comply with the legally binding orders issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and with the full span of international humanitarian law.
Following a case brought forward by South Africa, the ICJ – the UN’s top court – declared last month that Palestinians had a right to be protected from acts of genocide, and called on Israel to “take all measures within its power” to prevent such actions and allow aid to enter Gaza.
“Those who defy international law have been put on notice. Accountability must follow,” Turk added. “The world must not allow this to happen. Those with influence must restrain rather than enable. There must be an immediate ceasefire. All remaining hostages must be released. And there must be renewed collective resolve to reach a political solution.”