UN Experts Say Palestinians Are At 'Risk Of Genocide'

‘It is time to immediately cease fire and ensure urgent and unimpeded access to essential humanitarian supplies, including food, water, shelter, medicine, fuel, and electricity’

UN Experts Say Palestinians Are At 'Risk Of Genocide'

A group of UN experts on Friday expressed their indignation on Friday over the terrible attack that took place at Gaza's Al Ahli Arab Hospital on Tuesday, which resulted in the deaths of over 470 people and injured 341 others, while sounding the alarm that the Palestinian people were at the risk of being subject to a 'genocide' with the overall death toll from Israeli attacks on the narrow Gaza strip rising to 3,785, with 1,524 of them children, 1,000 women and 120 elderly.

In a statement issued by the United Nations Office Of The High Commissioner Of Human Rights (OHCHR) on Friday, the UN special rapporteurs on human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, on Palestinian territories, on violence against women and children, internally displaced people, right to food, right to attain highest standard of physical and mental health, and the rapporteur on adequate housing made a joint call for cessation of hostilities. 

"We are sounding the alarm: There is an ongoing campaign by Israel resulting in crimes against humanity in Gaza," it said, adding that the "military action in Gaza and the escalation of arrests and killing in the West Bank, there is also a risk of genocide against the Palestinian people."

The experts deemed the strike on the Al Ahli hospital earlier in the week an "atrocity", adding that the strike came on a day when Israel struck a UN-run school in the Al Maghazi refugee camp where some 4,000 displaced people were sheltering.

"It is a horrendous strike against Al Ahli Arab Hospital," they said, adding that Israel had twice warned of an impending attack on the hospital if the patients inside were not evacuated. And as warned, the hit came.

The experts reminded that the siege of Gaza did not commence after October 7, 2023, rather it began 16 years ago with a blockade of the enclave, its inhabitants, as its occupation continued, leaving some 2.2 million inhabitants without access to basic supplies including food, fuel, water, power, and medication. At the moment, they said that some 50,000 pregnant mothers desperately need access to prenatal and postnatal care. Moreover, it is believed that around a million people are internally displaced in the Gaza Strip.

They pointed to how the United Nations Security Council had repeatedly condemned the use of starvation as a weapon and that such a tactic is forbidden under international humanitarian law and criminal law. The experts further pointed to how it is illegal to deny humanitarian access and to deprive people of items that are essential to their existence. These actions are violations of international humanitarian law.

“The complete siege of Gaza, coupled with unfeasible evacuation orders and forcible population transfers, is a violation of international humanitarian and criminal law. It is also unspeakably cruel,” the experts said, actions which result in the wilful and systematic destruction of homes and civil infrastructure, known as ‘domicide’, and cutting off drinking water, medicine, and essential food are all prohibited under international criminal law.

“There are no justifications or exceptions for such crimes. We are appalled by the inaction of the international community in the face of belligerent war-mongering,” the experts said.

Apart from civilians and refugees, health workers too have been targeted and killed in the ongoing siege. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that it had recorded more than 136 attacks on health care services in the occupied Palestinian territories. This includes 59 attacks in the Gaza Strip that killed at least 16 health workers since hostilities began on October 7. In addition, four Palestine Red Crescent paramedics in an ambulance and 15 employees of the United Nations Refugee Works Agency (UNRWA) were killed because of Israeli bombing in Gaza, they said, as they called for the protection of all humanitarian workers.

The UN experts said there was a need for an immediate ceasefire to allow urgent and unimpeded access to essential humanitarian supplies including food, water, shelter, medicine, fuel and electricity.

“The occupation needs to end, and there must be reparation, restitution, and reconstruction towards full justice for Palestinians,” they said.

After hospital, church bombed by Israel

On Thursday, an Israeli air strike killed and injured a large number of displaced civilians who were taking refuge at a church in Gaza.

The attack against the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church, the third oldest in Palestine, resulted in a "large number of martyrs and injured" on Thursday night.

As the conflict raged in the enclave, many Christian and Muslim residents of Gaza sought sanctuary near the site of worship dating back to the 12th century, witnesses told the AFP news agency. It appeared that the air strike was directed towards this location.

Witnesses said the attack damaged the facade of the church and caused an adjacent building to collapse, adding that many injured people were evacuated to hospitals.