“Silence the guns and return to dialogue – the suffering inflicted on civilians is too much to bear. More violence is not the answer. It will bring neither peace nor security,” Volker Türk said in a statement, voicing deep concern that negotiations towards a continuation of last week’s pause had reportedly stalled.
Fighting resumed on Friday and hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombardments, he said, citing the Gaza Ministry of Health.
No aid entered the enclave via the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Friday, and delivery on Saturday was restricted, further impacting humanitarian operations to support millions amid a scarcity of food, water, fuel and other basic essentials.
No safe place
Mr. Türk feared the renewed and intensified hostilities would lead to even more death, disease, and destruction.
“As a result of Israel’s conduct of hostilities and its orders for people to leave the north and parts of the south, hundreds of thousands are being confined into ever smaller areas in southern Gaza without proper sanitation, access to sufficient food, water and health supplies, even as bombs rain down around them,” he said, adding “there is no safe place in Gaza.”
He stressed that international law and human rights law uphold the protection of civilians and the facilitation of unimpeded humanitarian access to people in need.
Concern for north Gaza
The UN human rights chief also highlighted how hundreds of thousands of people remaining in northern Gaza are at renewed risk of bombardment and continue to be deprived of food and other essentials.
He said this appalling situation and the orders to move south means people are essentially being forced to move in what appears to be an attempt to empty northern Gaza of Palestinians.
“The world bore witness of week upon week of horror since this latest crisis began, marked by extremely grave concerns around wilful killing of civilians, firing of indiscriminate rockets, indiscriminate attacks using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, forms of collective punishment, obstruction of humanitarian aid, and hostage-taking – all forbidden under international law,” he said.
He added that extremely serious allegations of multiple and grave breaches of international law must be fully investigated and those responsible held to account. In cases where national authorities prove unwilling or unable to carry out such investigations and prosecutions, international investigation is necessary.
Change course now
He urged Member States to do everything in their power to ensure all parties comply with their obligations under international law and prevent the commission of international crimes.
“The time to change course is now. Those that choose to flout international law are on notice that accountability will be served. No-one is above the law,” he said.
WHO calls for ceasefire
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) also called for a ceasefire in Gaza in a post on social media on Saturday.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the reports of ongoing hostilities and bombardment were “petrifying”.
He said a WHO team visited Nassar Medical Hospital in southern Gaza on Friday, where countless people had sought shelter and patients were receiving care on the floor.
“These conditions are beyond inadequate -unimaginable for the provision of health care,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I cannot find words strong enough to express our concern over what we’re witnessing. Ceasefire. NOW.”