UN rights chief deeply disturbed by recent Israeli actions in Gaza

Israeli tank in Rafah between the Egyptian border and demolished Palestinian homes (Photo: Anja Meulenbelt)

The Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, today called on Israel to respect international law and end its use of disproportionate force in the Gaza Strip, saying that even under security-related matters there was no “license to kill.”

Mr. Ramcharan “is deeply disturbed about the consequences of Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza strip, in particular in Rafah, and its disproportionate use of force in densely populated areas,” José Luis Díaz, spokesman for the High Commissioner’s Office, said in a statement issued in Geneva.

“He is particularly concerned at reports of the use by the Israel Defence Forces last Wednesday of helicopters and tanks to fire into a crowd of civilians during a peaceful demonstration, resulting in numerous deaths.”

The statement noted that according to reports from the ground, since 10 May dozens of Palestinian civilians have been killed and several hundred others injured. In addition, more than 200 civilian properties have been destroyed or damaged, leaving thousands homeless and destitute. “The extensive destruction of property, a form of collective punishment, is in flagrant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law,” it said.

“The Acting High Commissioner calls on Israel to abide by its obligations as an occupying power, to respect international law and to stop immediately the disproportionate use of force in the Gaza Strip,” the statement said.

“It is of paramount importance to ensure that all civilians and their property are protected at all times. The Acting High Commissioner emphasizes that even when there are security-related considerations, there is no such thing as a licence to kill,” it added.

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