Israeli strikes hit Gaza residential buildings, schools: UN

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Israeli airstrikes, in retaliation for Hamas militants’ surprise attacks on Israel over the weekend, struck residential buildings and schools across Gaza, the United Nations Human Rights chief said on Tuesday, warning that “sieges” were illegal under international law.

Volker Turk also condemned “horrifying mass killings by members of Palestinian armed groups” and said the militants’ abduction of hostages was forbidden under international law.

Israel’s air attacks - the worst in the 75-year history of its conflict with the Palestinians - also hit “premises of the UN relief and works agency, UNRWA (UN Palestinian refugee agency),” a UN rights office statement said, adding that civilians were among the dead and injured.

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Israel vowed to take “mighty revenge” after the Hamas attack left its streets strewn with bodies. Israeli media said 900 people were killed in the attacks and most were civilians, while nearly 700 Gazans were killed in Israeli strikes, according to Gaza officials, with entire districts in Gaza flattened.

Israel’s defense forces said on social media platform X that aircraft had hit military targets, including weapons storage and manufacturing sites.

Turk said Israel’s “imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law.”

“This risks seriously compounding the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Gaza, including the capacity of medical facilities to operate, especially in light of increasing numbers of injured,” he said, adding that a siege may amount to “collective punishment.”

Such acts may amount to a war crime, UN Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani later clarified in a Geneva press briefing. The UN rights office’s findings were based on a review of available material, including from its own monitors on the ground, she said.

Some 187,500 people have fled their homes in Gaza, a UN humanitarian office offices spokesperson said at the same briefing, warning of shortages of water and electricity.

World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jašarević said that 13 attacks on health facilities in Gaza had been confirmed by its monitoring service since hostilities began, without giving details.

It was working on a humanitarian corridor for the Gaza Strip, but stores of medical supplies had already run out, he said.

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