UN rights chief says war crimes committed by both parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Wednesday war crimes had been committed by both Israel and Hamas in the conflict that erupted just over a month ago.

“The atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups on 7 October were heinous, they were war crimes - as is the continued holding of hostages,” Volker Turk said at the Rafah crossing in Egypt on the border with Gaza.

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“The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians is also a war crime, as is unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians,” he added.

Speaking of the humanitarian aid that has been delivered through Rafah, Turk said: “The lifeline has been unjustly, outrageously thin.”

Israel has bombarded Gaza unrelentingly in response to a cross-border Hamas raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7, in which gunmen killed 1,400 people and took about 240 hostages. Israeli bombardments have killed more than 10,500, including many women and children.

“I call – as a matter of urgency - for the parties now to agree a ceasefire,” Turk said.

He added that there are three human rights imperatives: the delivery of sufficient humanitarian aid to Gaza, the release of hostages and to “implement a durable end to the occupation.”

“We have fallen off a precipice and this cannot continue,” he said. “Actions of one party do not absolve the actions of the other party.”

Israel has resisted calls by the United Nations and G7 nations for a humanitarian pause in the hostilities to alleviate the suffering in Gaza, saying it will not agree to a ceasefire until the hostages are released. Hamas says it will not stop fighting while Gaza is under attack.

“Even in the context of a 56-year occupation, the situation is the most dangerous we have faced for people in Gaza, in Israel, in the West Bank but also regionally,” Turk said.

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