Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza ‘May Have Violated Laws of War’ – UN Human Rights Office

The death toll from Israel's genocidal war on Gaza continues to rise. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

The UN Human Rights Office has found that a series of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza last year “may have repeatedly violated fundamental principles of the laws of war.”

A report published on Wednesday by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) detailed six attacks that involved the suspected use of GBU-31 (2,000 lbs), GBU-32 (1,000 lbs) and GBU-39 (250 lbs) bombs from October 9 to December 2, 2023, on residential buildings, a school, refugee camps and a market.

The UN Office verified 218 deaths from these attacks and said information received indicated the number of fatalities could be much higher.

“The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid or at the very least minimize to every extent civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel’s bombing campaign,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a statement.

The report noted that unlawful targeting when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, “in line with a State or organizational policy, may also implicate the commission of crimes against humanity.”

Türk said, “Israel’s choices of methods and means of conducting hostilities in Gaza since 7 October, including through the extensive use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas, have failed to ensure that they effectively distinguish between civilians and fighters.”

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Legal Protection for Civilians

He emphasized that “Civilian lives and infrastructure are protected under IHL. This law lays out the very clear obligations of parties to armed conflicts that make protection of civilians a priority.”

In one of the attacks on Gaza, the report states that strikes on the Ash Shujaiyeh neighborhood, Gaza City, on December 2 destroyed an approximate diagonal span of 130 meters, destroying 15 buildings and damaging at least 14 others.

The extent of the damage and the craters visible through verified visual evidence and satellite imagery indicates that approximately nine GBU-31s were used, it added. The UN Human Rights Office received information that at least 60 people were killed.

GBU-31, 32 and 39s are mostly used to penetrate through several floors of concrete and can completely collapse tall structures.

“Given how densely populated the areas targeted were, the use of an explosive weapon with such wide area effects is highly likely to amount to a prohibited indiscriminate attack, the report finds,” the statement said.

The effects of such weapons in these areas cannot be limited as required by international law, resulting in military objects, civilians and civilian objects being struck without distinction, it added.

No Warning Issued

The report also stated that in five of the attacks, no warning was issued, raising concerns with regard to violations of the principle of precaution in attack to protect civilians.

In three of the strikes, the Israeli military asserted it had targeted individuals connected to the October 7 resistance operation.

As the report indicated, however, the mere presence of one commander, or even several fighters, or of several distinct military objectives in one area, does not turn an entire neighborhood into a military objective, as this would violate the principle of proportionality and the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks, the statement said.

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“While the IDF asserts it has initiated factual assessments of most of the incidents examined in the report, it is now eight months since the first of these extremely serious incidents occurred,” said the High Commissioner. “Yet still there is no clarity as to what happened or steps toward accountability.”

Türk called on Israel “to make public detailed findings on these incidents.”

He added that it should also “ensure thorough and independent investigations into these and all other similar incidents with a view to identifying those responsible for violations, holding them to account and to ensuring all victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations.”

Over 37,000 Killed

Currently on trial before the International Court of Justice for genocide against Palestinians, Israel has been waging a devastating war on Gaza since October 7.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 37,396 Palestinians have been killed, and 85,523 wounded. Moreover, at least 11,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip.

Palestinian and international organizations say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

The Israeli war has resulted in an acute famine, mostly in northern Gaza, resulting in the death of many Palestinians, mostly children.

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The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all over the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

Israel says that 1,200 soldiers and civilians were killed during the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7. Israeli media published reports suggesting that many Israelis were killed on that day by ‘friendly fire’.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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