Gaza: UN officials condemn Israeli airstrikes on camp for displaced

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Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, voiced his horror at further loss of civilian lives in the war-ravaged enclave.

The images from the camp are horrific and point to no apparent change in the methods and means of warfare used by Israel that have already led to so many civilian deaths,” he said in a news release on Monday.

“Sunday’s strike underscores once again that there is literally no safe place in Gaza.”

On 26 May, Palestinian armed groups fired a large barrage of rockets towards Tel Aviv in Israel, with several people reported to have been slightly injured. A few hours later, munitions from an Israeli aircraft struck a camp in the Al Hashash area in Rafah.

Reports from the ground indicate several explosions and fires were ignited. The area was said to be sheltering people who had been displaced from North Gaza. Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said that the strike targeted senior “Hamas officials”, and that they were aware of reports that civilians had been harmed in the resulting fires.

Call for accountability

“I note that the IDF has announced a review, but what is shockingly clear is that by striking such an area, densely packed with civilians, this was an entirely predictable outcome. It is crucial that such reviews lead to accountability and changes in policy and practices,” Mr. Türk said.

He reiterated his called on all parties to the conflict to put in place a ceasefire, given the imperative of protecting civilians.

“Palestinian armed groups must stop the firing of rockets which are inherently indiscriminate, in clear violation of international humanitarian law. They must also unconditionally release all hostages at once,” the High Commissioner said.

“Israel must take immediate steps to protect civilians, and ensure they have access to essential humanitarian assistance, and release all those detained arbitrarily,” he added

End hostilities

Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, also underscored the need for investigation.

“I call upon the Israeli authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into this incident, hold those responsible for any wrongdoing to account, and take immediate steps to better protect civilians,” he said in a statement.

“All parties in the conflict must refrain from actions that set us further away from achieving an end to hostilities and further jeopardize the already fragile situation on the ground and the broader region.”

Attack ‘a monstrous atrocity’

Echoing those comments, the UN indepenent human rights expert on housing also urged for “concerted global action” to halt the war, days since the UN’s top court called for an end to Israel’s expanding military operation in Rafah.

Attacking women and children while they cower in their shelters in Rafah is a monstrous atrocity,” said Balakrishnan Rajagopal, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing.

“We need concerted global action to stop Israel’s actions now.”

Appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteurs are mandated to monitor and report on specific thematic or country situations. They are not UN staff, do not receive a salary, and serve in their individual capacity.

No place and no one is safe: UNRWA

In a separate social media post the UN agency assisting Palestine refugees, UNRWA, also expressed concern about the safety and status of colleagues in Gaza with whom contact has been lost after the attack in Rafah. 

“We do not have an established communications line with our colleagues on the ground. We are not able to confirm their location and are extremely concerned for their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of all the displaced people sheltering in this area. No place is safe. No one is safe.”

In addition to the deadly threat of violence, UN humanitarians insisted that famine is still a daily danger for the people of Gaza.

Aid delivery delays continue

The warning comes amid an almost total halt to lifesaving aid convoy deliveries since the Israeli military seized Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza earlier this month, in response to a rocket attack on Kerem Shalom crossing on 5 May that resulted in the deaths of four Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers.

According to UNRWA’s online portal for UN relief items and fuel entering Gaza via Rafah and nearby Kerem Shalom, no aid trucks have made it into the enclave since last Sunday. 

“Aid is there, tens of kilometres away on the boundaries- while the population gets closer to famine,” UNRWA Director of Planning, Sam Rose, said in a post on X late Sunday. 

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also confirmed serious ongoing challenges receiving and delivering aid throughout Gaza, citing frequent delays, arbitrary checks access restrictions by the Israeli authorities.

Relief mission pressures 

Between 1 and 23 May, 31 aid missions were denied access and 40 were impeded, including by “extensive delays, detaining aid workers, firing warning shots and forcing the abortion of officially approved missions”, OCHA said in a post on X on Sunday.

“If food and humanitarian supplies do not begin to enter Gaza in massive quantities, desperation and hunger will spread, the UN World Food Programme (WFPalso warned on Monday, after UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern that the humanitarian operation was “near collapse”.

“The Secretary-General emphasizes that the Israeli authorities must facilitate the safe pickup and delivery of humanitarian supplies from Egypt entering Kerem Shalom to those in need,” the UN chief’s spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday, after the reported passage of aid relief and fuel from Egypt into Gaza via Kerem Shalom. 

“The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate ceasefire and for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages to end the suffering of civilians,” the statement noted, adding that Mr. Guterres had been “dismayed” by the lack of implementation of the recent orders of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the situation in Gaza. 

“The decisions of the Court are binding,” the statement continued.

 

 



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