UN warns of Gaza genocide risk

Human rights experts lambasted the international community for the failure to oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza

19 Oct 2023

Relatives identify the bodies of those killed in the bombing of Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza ©  Getty Images / Mustafa Hassona

Israel is engaged in a systematic campaign of crimes against humanity against Palestinians in Gaza, United Nations human rights experts warned in a statement published on Thursday, citing Tuesday’s deadly airstrikes that targeted a hospital and several refugee shelters as evidence Israeli officials were seeking to wipe out the entire Palestinian population.

Considering 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, there is also a risk of genocide against the Palestine people,” the experts, who are members of the UN Human Rights Council’s independent Special Procedures body, explained.

Israel has violated international humanitarian and criminal law in cutting off drinking water, medicine, and food to Gaza, they continued, pointing out that the UN Security Council has repeatedly condemned the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare. Meanwhile, they said, the ongoing and calculated destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure constitutes “domicide.”

The group specifically referenced Tuesday’s airstrike on Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, which killed over 470 civilians and left hundreds more trapped under the rubble, as an “atrocity,” as well as a strike that same day on a school run by the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA inside the al-Maghazi refugee camp that killed at least six people and injured dozens more. Israel was fully aware of the civilian nature of both facilities, having twice threatened the hospital with attack if those inside were not evacuated, and received the coordinates of the school from UNRWA daily. 

The Israel Defense Forces have denied responsibility for the hospital strike, claiming to have proof it was the result of a failed rocket launch by Islamic Jihad.

Two other densely-populated refugee camps were also hit on Tuesday, even as the number of Palestinians internally displaced in Gaza has risen to around 1 million. The UN experts specifically called for humanitarian workers to be protected, quoting the World Health Organization’s claim that healthcare services in Gaza have been attacked over 136 times since Israel declared war on Hamas earlier this month and at least 16 health workers have been killed. 

Denouncing the international community’s “appalling” failure to act or even speak out strongly against the most intense bombing campaign Israel has inflicted on Gaza in its history, which has compounded the devastation wrought by its 16-year blockade of the territory, the group demanded an immediate ceasefire, full access to food, water, fuel, electricity, medicine, and shelter, and “reparation, restitution, and reconstruction, towards full justice for Palestinians.

Several members of the Special Procedures group issued similar warnings last week in the wake of Israel’s evacuation order to north Gaza, warning that the forced transfer of 1.1 million Palestinians across a live warzone with no electricity and almost no food or water in the space of 24 hours was an attempt at ethnic cleansing. 


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