The U.N. human rights office said Wednesday that given the high number of civilian deaths, now running at over 9000, and the scale of destruction following Israel’s strikes on refugee camps that, “We have serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes.”
The number of deaths reported by the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health does not say how many are civilians and how many Hamas fighters.
#Gaza – Given the high number of civilian casualties & the scale of destruction following Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia refugee camp, we have serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes. pic.twitter.com/ky2jYVrhJq
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) November 1, 2023
However, Israel accuses Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by the United States and other countries, of deliberately using civilians as shields and having a sprawling network of tunnels underneath Gaza, where it is believed to be stockpiling weapons, food and other supplies.
Under international law, if a civilian building is used for military purposes, it becomes a legitimate military target, so for example if a rocket is launched from the roof of a school or hospital, then that building is regarded as a military target.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived today (Friday) in Israel, where he is expected to call on the Israeli government to pause its offensive in Gaza so humanitarian aid can enter the region.
Israel is returning thousands of Palestinian workers to Gaza who were trapped in Israel, following the Hamas attack on Israelis.
Israel says its troops have surrounded Gaza City amid diplomatic efforts to bring about a brief stop in the fighting and a worsening humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territory.
U.S. President Joe Biden says 74 Americans were evacuated Thursday from Gaza to Egypt.
Aid agency UNRWA says four of its shelters, hosting about 20,000 Palestinians, were hit in the Gaza Strip.
The visit comes as Israeli ground troops have surrounded Gaza City amid diplomatic efforts to bring about a brief stop in the fighting with Hamas militants and a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday urged a “humanitarian pause” in the war between Israel and Hamas. “A pause means give time to get the prisoners out. Give time,” he said.
Hamas militants took more than 240 hostages during its October 7 attack on Israel that Israel said it killed 1,400 people. Israel declared war on Hamas after the attack and the constant bombardment on Gaza has killed thousands of Palestinians. The Hamas-run Palestinian health ministry says the death toll in the enclave has surpassed 9,000.
On Friday, Israel began sending back thousands of Palestinian workers who were stranded in Israel, following the Hamas attack on Israelis almost a month ago.
The first group of foreign nationals, who have been trapped in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war, began entering Egypt on Wednesday. More left on Thursday.
Biden said during an Oval Office meeting with the Dominican Republic’s president, Luis Abinader, that 74 Americans with dual nationalities were evacuated on Thursday.
National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters that five other Americans had left through the Rafah border crossing on Wednesday.
“That’s a good sign that the trajectory is going in the right direction,” Kirby said. “We want to get them all out as soon as possible.”
He estimates there are between 1,000 to 1,200 dual U.S. nationals, legal permanent residents, and their families in Gaza.
The reopening of the Rafah border crossing to allow foreign passport holders to leave was part of a Qatari-brokered deal among Israel, Egypt and Hamas.
At least 81 injured Palestinians have also been transported by ambulance from Gaza to Egyptian hospitals as part of the deal.
UNRWA, the U.N. agency that assists Palestinians, said four of its shelters hosting around 20,000 displaced persons have been hit recently. Two were in northern Gaza, which is under an Israeli evacuation order, and two in the southern part of the Strip.
“Today, a school-turned shelter was damaged at the Jabaliya refugee camp, the largest in the Gaza Strip, reportedly killing at least 20 people and injuring five,” UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement. “This comes after two days of heavy bombardments in the area.”
Israel said it carried out airstrikes on Jabaliya Tuesday targeting a senior Hamas commander. The camp was hit a second time on Wednesday. Hamas has denied the presence of any commanders at the camp and said 195 civilians were killed in the strikes.
Israel accuses Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by the United States and other countries, of using civilians as shields and having a sprawling network of tunnels underneath Gaza, where it is believed to be stockpiling weapons, food and other supplies.
Sources: VOA, BBC, CNN, news agencies.