UN experts sound genocide alarm over Gaza

The partially covered body of a toddler lies net to the bodies of adults covered in blankets

The bodies of Palestinians lie on the ground outside Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital on 18 October.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

“We are sounding the alarm: There is an ongoing campaign by Israel resulting in crimes against humanity in Gaza,” seven independent United Nations human rights experts warned on Thursday.

Citing “statements made by Israeli political leaders and their allies, accompanied by military action in Gaza and escalation of arrests and killing in the West Bank,” the experts said “there is also a risk of genocide” against the Palestinian people.

The experts condemned “the inaction of the international community in the face of belligerent war-mongering” and called for an immediate ceasefire to allow “urgent and unimpeded” aid into Gaza.

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

Last week, three prominent Palestinian human rights groups called for urgent international intervention to “protect the Palestinian people against genocide.”

So far, Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the world’s supposed court of last resort, has declined to make a preventive statement that could deter the commission of further war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Khan has merely confirmed to Reuters that the court has jurisdiction over potential war crimes carried out during the current hostilities and focused on the 7 October attack carried out by Palestinian armed groups.

Ahmed Abofoul, an international lawyer who works for the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, said that “the ICC prosecutor has the mandate not only to investigate crimes, but also to issue preventive statements … that can provide deterrence.”

In an interview with the Anadolu news agency, Abofoul added that “one has to wonder why the ICC prosecutor won’t even issue a statement to deter Israeli crimes.”

Israeli officials have acknowledged that a preventative statement made by Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, delayed the forcible transfer of Palestinians in the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar.

Hundreds of protesters assembled outside of the headquarters of the International Criminal Court at The Hague on Wednesday, demanding that Khan take action.

The UN Palestinian Rights Committee has meanwhile called on the court to “dispatch an urgent fact-finding mission to the region to investigate potential war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Bensouda opened an investigation into war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza early last year. But the Palestine file appears to be gathering dust while Khan responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine with an urgency totally absent in the Palestine investigation.

The ICC even issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and opened a country office in Ukraine. Khan has refused to say when he will visit Palestine after indicating he would do so sometime this year.

Members of Palestinian armed groups as well as figures in the Israeli military and political establishment may be subject to an ICC investigation.

Human Rights Watch said that attacks in Israel led by Hamas gunmen on 7 October should be “investigated as war crimes.” The New York-based group says that it is reviewing hundreds of photos and videos from the attack “showing unfolding abuses.”

Amnesty International has also said that it is also investigating the 7 October attacks. The group accuses “Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups” of “brutal crimes including mass summary killings, hostage-taking and launching indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel.”

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights said on Thursday that “there is a credible case, based on powerful evidence, that Israel is attempting to commit, if not actively committing, genocide against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

The civil liberties group lays out that case in a 44-page legal briefing paper.

“Through its ongoing unconditional military, diplomatic and political support to Israel, the United States is not only failing to prevent genocide, but is complicit,” the Center for Constitutional Rights said.

A person walks amid a field of debris surrounded by bombed-out buildings

Destruction in Gaza City’s al-Rimal district after it was carpet bombed by Israel, 10 October.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

On Wednesday, Al-Haq said that Israel’s carpet bombing of Gaza City’s affluent al-Rimal neighborhood was “intended to cause physical, psychological and economic distress as a form of collective punishment on the people of Gaza.”

“This constitutes a war crime, and may give rise to evidence meeting the threshold for the crime of genocide,” the Ramallah-based group added.

Al-Rimal, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the coastal enclave, is considered the “economic and administrative backbone” of Gaza, according to Al-Haq.

Palestinians in Gaza looked to urban centers such as al-Rimal for refuge during Israel’s six previous full-scale military offensives over the last 15 years. Al-Haq said that “this calculation changed in May 2021,” when Israel targeted al-Rimal and killed 30 Palestinians.

The leveling of al-Rimal is “undoubtedly evidence of a scorched earth policy” and is a form of economic warfare that is part of Israel’s policy to deliberately de-develop the Gaza Strip, which “may meet the threshold of genocide.”

Major developments

  • Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, reiterated his call for a ceasefire in Gaza and said during a meeting in Egypt that the coastal enclave urgently needs life essentials including food, water, medicine and fuel “at scale and we need it to be sustained.”

  • Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for Hamas’ armed wing, said on Thursday that its reckoning with the enemy “will be harsh and painful” and that US support will not spare it. He reassured “our people that the resistance still controls the events of the field and knows when to strike,” and that Qassam is ready for a long battle.

  • Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas’ politburo, said that the US administration has failed to rally international and regional support for the aggression in Gaza and accept the displacement of Palestinians from the territory. He said that the solution is the demise of the occupation and a fully sovereign independent state with Jerusalem as its capital where the Palestinian people enjoy their full freedom.

  • Following a meeting in Cairo, Egyptian President Abdulfattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah jointly called for an end to Israel’s war and collective punishment in Gaza and said that they would not accept the forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza to their countries. An international summit will be held in Egypt on Saturday aimed at stopping the Israeli war.

  • Egyptian President Abdulfattah al-Sisi made clear that his country would not accept Palestinians displaced from the Gaza Strip and said that it would turn the Sinai peninsula “into a base for attacks against Israel,” Reuters reported on Wednesday. Al-Sisi said that Gaza is effectively under Israeli control and that displaced Palestinians could instead be moved to the Naqab desert in southern Israel.

  • Sinai for Human Rights renewed its call on Egyptian authorities to allow the inhabitants of the North Sinai who were forcibly displaced beginning in 2014 to immediately return to their lands, where the Israeli government aims to forcibly transfer and resettle Palestinians in Gaza.

  • Late Wednesday, US President Joe Biden denied claims made by Israeli officials that the US military would join its Israeli counterpart in fighting Hizballah if the latter initiated a war against Israel. He reiterated his message that “the vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas, and Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people” to try to distance his administration from the perception that the US has waged war against the Palestinian people by supporting Israel’s extermination campaign and carpet bombing in Gaza.

  • The US Navy said it intercepted three missiles fired from Yemen that the Pentagon says were potentially aimed towards Israel.

  • The US State Department issued a “worldwide caution” for its citizens overseas due to increased tensions “and potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests.”

  • A former commander of the Israeli military’s Gaza Division told Israel’s Channel 12 that the US is “expecting us to destroy Hamas” and that he expected that the “complex” mission would take six to eight months. He said that “thousands will have to be jailed in the Negev [Naqab] to serve as bargaining chips” for the more than 200 captives being held in Gaza. He dismissed a swap for the Palestinians already held in Israeli prisons, saying that “would be a defeat for Israel” and would “merely invite further attacks.” He said that the Israeli military “must move forward with full force.”

Situation in Gaza

  • Gaza’s health ministry says that at least 1,500 children are among the 3,785 Palestinians killed in the territory since 7 October – 40 percent of the fatalities. “None of them knew life outside of Israel’s closure, military occupation and apartheid,” said Al Mezan, a Palestinian human rights group based in Gaza. “Humanity failed each and every one of them.”

  • The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that 25 percent of Gaza’s homes have been reported damaged or destroyed, and that there have been 59 attacks on healthcare, including at al-Ahli hospital, 170 education facilities have been hit, and water and sanitation facilities have been severely damaged

  • Palestinian journalist Hani Shaer reported from Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on the first tent encampment set up for the thousands of displaced:

  • The Palestine Red Crescent Society announced its preparedness to receive humanitarian and medical aid at Rafah crossing in coordination with its Egyptian counterpart “and to begin distribution.”

  • With Israel having cut off the supply of water, fuel, food, electricity and medical supplies, Palestinians in Gaza are currently living on a daily average of three liters of water per person for all needs, including drinking, cooking and hygiene. The World Health Organization says that 50 to 100 liters of water per person per day are needed to meet basic needs.

  • Gaza’s health ministry called on all medical personnel in the territory to report to health facilities.

  • British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta warned on Thursday that Gaza’s health system is “falling apart,” and that al-Shifa hospital, the largest in Gaza, has twice as many patients than it does beds. The hospital has run out of external fixators, pins and rods to stabilize fractures and the type of wounds being treated by doctors in Gaza. A lack of water pressure means the central sterilization machine is no longer operational at al-Shifa. Dozens of doctors and nurses have been killed and meanwhile many medical workers have lost family members and their homes:

  • Gaza’s only cancer treatment facility is on the verge of shutting down as it is about to run out of fuel for its single generator, endangering “the lives of hundreds of patients who need timely and regular treatment to battle cancer,” Al Jazeera English reported.

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists has confirmed the killing of 21 journalists since 7 October – 17 Palestinian, three Israeli and one Lebanese – and the injury of 8 journalists. Three journalists are missing or have been detained.

Al-Ahli hospital massacre

  • Al Jazeera English published the results of a digital investigation finding “no grounds for the Israeli army’s claim that the strike” that killed hundreds at Gaza City’s al-Ahli hospital on Tuesday “was caused by a failed rocket launch”:
  • The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the strike at al-Ahli hospital.

  • Reuters reported on Wednesday that “the spiritual leader of the Anglican church, which runs the hospital in Gaza where a deadly blast killed huge numbers of Palestinians, on Wednesday called for restraint in placing blame for the attack until the facts are clear.” The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stated that the “atrocity … is a violation of humanitarian law, which is clear that hospitals, doctors and patients must be protected.” Welby added that “for this reason, it’s essential that we exercise restraint in apportioning responsibility before all the facts are clear.”

  • Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “I don’t tend to require Israel to provide proof of the claims they make. They are an ally, my default position is to believe Israel.” Murphy has led efforts to press the Biden administration for a thorough and transparent investigation into the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh – the circumstances of which Israel initially lied about before admitting that its troops likely killed the Al Jazeera correspondent after numerous independent investigations determined Israeli responsibility.

  • Some US lawmakers are reportedly “pushing the Biden administration to publicly declassify intelligence that has informed their belief that Israel is not responsible for the mass-casualty event at a Gaza hospital,” the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday.




We are all guilty in front of Palestinians. We all owe them

Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.