The catastrophic situation unfolding in the Gaza Strip was “entirely foreseeable and preventable,” the UN human rights chief said Wednesday.
“My humanitarian colleagues have described the situation as apocalyptic,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk told journalists in Geneva ahead of Human Rights Day to be observed on Dec. 10.
Calling for an urgent cessation of hostilities and the release of all hostages, Turk said that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering death, siege, destruction, and deprivation of the most essential human needs, such as food, water, lifesaving medical supplies, and other essentials on a massive scale.
“Palestinians in Gaza are living in utter, deepening horror,” he added.
He said that military operations, including bombardment, by the Israeli forces continue in northern, central, and southern Gaza, affecting people who have already been displaced multiple times and forced to flee for safety.
“But no place is safe. As we speak, some 1.9 million out of the 2.2 million Palestinians have been displaced and are being pushed into ever-diminishing and extremely overcrowded places in southern Gaza, in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions,” the human rights chief said.
Turning to the human rights crisis in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he said that this is also “extremely alarming.”
There is an “increase in unnecessary or disproportionate, even militarized, use of force by Israeli forces, resulting in a rise in unlawful killings and more aggressive and frequent settler violence, said Turk.
That violence leads to the “forced displacement of Palestinian communities, record increases in arbitrary arrests and detention, an alarming spike in deaths in custody, and allegations of ill-treatment of Palestinians in detention, including sexual violence,” he added.
“The Israeli authorities must take immediate steps to end widespread impunity for such violations,” Turk said.
- Humanitarian aid cut
The UN human rights commissioner said that humanitarian aid is again “virtually cut off” in Gaza, as fears of widespread disease and hunger spread
“In these circumstances, there is a heightened risk of atrocity crimes. Measures need to be taken urgently – both by the parties concerned and by all States – particularly those with influence – to prevent any such crimes,” he added.
“The international community needs to insist with one voice on a cease-fire, immediately, on human rights and humanitarian grounds,” Turk said, adding that all allegations of violence and sexual violence need to be fully investigated.
- Peace action needed
Turk said parties know what is needed to achieve peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis.
“Violence and vengeance can only result in more hatred and radicalization. The only way to end the accumulative sufferings is ending the occupation and achieving the two-state solution,” the rights chief said.
On Myanmar, he said, the human rights crisis caused by the military after its coup in February 2021 continues to inflict an unbearable toll on civilians.
“To date, credible sources have verified that military forces have killed over 4,232 civilians since the coup,” said Turk.
“Civilians have suffered countless violations – facing airstrikes, artillery shelling, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and prosecutions, as well as sexual violence, displacement, denial of humanitarian assistance and the burning of their homes, fields and villages.”
He said that the situation of Rohingya Muslims is “ever more protracted,” with no prospect of a safe and sustainable return for those forced to flee and that many are taking dangerous journeys in the region by sea.