OHCHR Forcing Gaza People to Move to the South Amounts to ‘Forcible Transfer of Civilians’

Geneva, The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) voiced grave fears about the toll on Palestinian civilians in the coming days amidst the escalation of Gaza Strip and the displacement of over one million people within 10 days.

“With a staggering 4,200 people killed, over one million people displaced in just 10 days, and large areas in the Gaza Strip reduced to rubble, we have grave fears about the toll on civilians in the coming days,” OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani stressed.

Military operations show no signs of abating, the continued siege on Gaza is affecting water supply, food, medicine and other basic needs, and there are daily indications of violations of the laws of war and international human rights law, she said.

The death toll includes a large number of women and children, as well as at least 11 Palestinian journalists, 28 medical staff and 14 UN colleagues. It remains unclear how many more bodies may be buried in the rubble with many families missing loved ones, terrified about their uncertain fate, Shamdasani added.

With numerous health facilities hit by bombardment and others beyond breaking point, there are serious concerns about the accessibility of medical care for the many thousand injured and for the estimated 50,000 pregnant women, as well as people with chronic physical and mental health issues, she noted.

The current hostilities are compounding already limited enjoyment of the right to health resulting from the ongoing blockade of Gaza. Attacks against medical facilities, medical personnel and the wounded and sick are prohibited under international humanitarian law, the spokesperson stressed.

Appalling reports that civilians attempting to relocate to southern Gaza were struck and killed by an explosive weapon must be independently and thoroughly investigated, as must all allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law, she noted.

So far, around 400,000 IDPs are sheltered in various locations, several in UNRWA buildings. International law requires that any lawful temporary evacuation by Israel, as the occupying power, of an area on the basis of the security of the population or imperative military reasons must be accompanied by the provision of proper accommodation for all evacuees, undertaken under satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition, the spokesperson added.

“There appears to have been no attempt by Israel to ensure this for the 1.1 million civilians ordered to move. We are concerned that this order combined with the imposition of a complete siege on Gaza may not be considered as lawful temporary evacuation and would therefore amount to a forcible transfer of civilians in breach of international law,” she warned.

Shamdasani echoed the UN call for a humanitarian pause to enable aid delivery and to prevent further suffering and deaths of the already much beleaguered civilian population of Gaza, stressing that urgent immediate, unimpeded humanitarian access needs to be ensured.

She also concerned at increased violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. “Since 7 October, 52 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli security forces, and five more have been killed by settlers,” she said.

Source: Qatar News Agency