Amid rising bloodshed and volatility in Gaza and Israel, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Saturday called for a de-escalation of tensions and urged all parties to respect the law international.
UPDATE: Last night 8 more Palestinian children were killed in the Gaza Strip. The youngest 4 years old, the oldest 15 years old.
Since the escalation started 5 days ago, 40 children have been killed in the Gaza Strip and 2 in Israel.
They are children.
This is a serious violation #AChildIsAChild
– UNICEF Palestine (@UNICEFpalestine) May 15, 2021
“Over the past 10 days, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel has deteriorated at an alarming rate,” she said in A declaration.
Ms. Bachelet added that “rather than seeking to calm tensions, the inflammatory rhetoric from leaders of all stripes appears to seek to stir tensions rather than calm them.”
Security Council meets on Sunday
Meanwhile, losses continue to increase in the fighting between the Israel Defense Forces and those of the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. The Saturday, Unicef Palestine reported on Twitter that eight children were killed overnight in Gaza and that to date 40 children there, and two in Israel, have lost their lives.
The un security Council will meet on Sunday morning to discuss the crisis. Secretary General António Guterres and the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, will address the ambassadors.
Ms. Bachelet warned that the firing of large numbers of indiscriminate rockets by Palestinian armed groups at Israel, including densely populated areas, amounted to war crimes.
There are also concerns that some Israel Defense Forces attacks in Gaza “have targeted civilian objects which, under international humanitarian law, do not qualify as military objectives.”
His statement declared that failure to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of military operations “constitutes a serious violation of international humanitarian law and may constitute war crimes”.
“I urge both parties to ensure strict compliance with their obligations under international law. Israel, as the occupying power, also has a duty to ensure unhindered access to humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip, ”said the UN rights chief. “Those found responsible for violations must be held to account.”
Crowd violence, inflammatory language
Ms. Bachelet also called on the Israeli government to take action against “the worrying spike in violence” between far-right groups, including Israeli settlers, and Palestinian citizens of Israel, in several cities across the country.
She expressed particular concern at “the apparently highly organized nature of some attacks as well as inflammatory language which can amount to incitement to racial and religious hatred and violence”.
Reports also indicate that in some cases organized convoys have arrived from Israeli settlements in the West Bank to join local groups. Violent attacks were also carried out by some Palestinian citizens of Israel.
“I am particularly concerned about reports that the Israel Police have failed to intervene where Palestinian citizens of Israel have been violently attacked, and that social media is being used by far-right groups to rally people to bring ‘weapons, knives, clubs, punches’ to be used against Palestinian citizens of Israel, ”Ms. Bachelet said.
She reminded the Israeli authorities of their duty to protect all residents and citizens, and urged political leaders to refrain from any action that would escalate tensions and instead strive to prevent and address incitement to hatred and violence.
Investigate all violations
The High Commissioner was also deeply disturbed by the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces during protests and clashes in the West Bank, which resulted in the deaths of 10 Palestinians on Friday alone.
Ms. Bachelet called for independent, transparent and thorough investigations into all allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
“We know from recent history how such a serious situation can develop with utterly catastrophic consequences for thousands of civilians,” she said.
“There can be no winner, no lasting peace resulting from the continuing cycle of violence. I urge all parties – and influential states – to take immediate action to ensure respect for international law, ease tensions and work to resolve – rather than fuel – the conflict. “