Israel Palestine Conflict

UN warns of ‘potential for thousands more civilians to die’ in Gaza

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The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk warned on Saturday there was the potential for thousands more civilians to die as Israel presses a ground operation in Gaza.

Israel’s army relentlessly hammered the territory on Saturday after fierce overnight bombardment that rescuers said destroyed hundreds of buildings three weeks into a war sparked by the deadliest attack in the country’s history.

“Given the manner in which military operations have been conducted until now, in the context of the 56-year-old occupation, I am raising alarm about the possibly catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza and the potential for thousands more civilians to die,” Turk said.

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“There is no safe place in Gaza and there is no way out. I am very worried for my colleagues, as I am for all civilians in Gaza.”

Israel unleashed its bombing campaign after Hamas gunmen stormed across the Gaza border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing more than 220 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza said Israeli strikes had killed 7,703 people, mainly civilians, including more than 3,500 children.

The UN rights chief also condemned the Internet and telecommunications blackout that has hit the Palestinian enclave since Friday.

“Compounding the misery and suffering of civilians, Israeli strikes on telecommunications installations and subsequent Internet shutdown have effectively left Gazans with no way of knowing what is happening across Gaza and cut them off from the outside world,” he said.

“Ambulances and civil defense teams are no longer able to locate the injured, or the thousands of people estimated to be still under the rubble.”

“When these hostilities end, those who have survived will face the rubble of their homes and the graves of their family members,” Turk said.

He called on all parties “to do all in their power to de-escalate the conflict.”

The conflict is the fifth and deadliest in Gaza since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Palestinian territory in 2005.

The latest Israeli strikes against Hamas, the group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, were the most intense since the war broke out. They coincided with ground operations.

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