UN warns of ‘horror’ and ‘atrocities’ as Israel steps up Gaza assault

Officials call on Israel, Hamas, world powers to halt ‘apocalyptic’ scenes as Palestinians fruitlessly seek safety.

UN officials have warned that the risk of “atrocities” is growing in Gaza, with Palestinians stuck in “deepening horror” as Israel intensifies its assault on the enclave.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Volker Türk, UN high commissioner for human rights, urged Israel, Hamas, and international actors with influence to prevent “atrocity crimes” as Israel’s advance into southern Gaza leaves displaced Palestinians with nowhere to run.

“Palestinians in Gaza are living in utter deepening horror,” Türk continued, describing the displacement and the systemic deprivation of millions of Palestinians, who are surviving in unsafe, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions with no security.

“My colleagues describe the situation as ‘apocalyptic’. In these circumstances, there is a heightened risk of atrocity crimes,” he stated.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) echoed his words, warning that the situation in Gaza is “getting worse each minute”.

“Another wave of displacement is underway in Gaza”, UNRWA said in a post on X, labelling the enclave “one of the most dangerous places in the world”.

 

Speaking shortly before Human Rights Day on December 10, Türk noted that history has shown how a “cynical disregard” for human rights can lead to events that the world has declared should “never again” happen.

It also risks resulting in impunity, he added, calling for all allegations of war-time crimes against civilians and hostages committed by Israel or Hamas to be investigated.

Noting also the “alarming” escalation in “militarised violence” in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Türk urged “the Israeli authorities [to] take immediate steps to end wide-spread impunity for such violations”.

The UN official noted unlawful killings, aggressive settler violence, increases in arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment, sexual violence, and an alarming spike in deaths in custody of Palestinians.

Allegations of sexual crimes committed by Hamas fighters during the October 7 attack on southern Israel must also be fully investigated “to ensure justice for the victims”, he continued.

“Violence and vengeance will only lead to more violence,” he said. “The only solution is to end the occupation and achieve a two-state solution.”

The International community must come together “with one voice”,  to demand a ceasefire immediately on humanitarian grounds.

At least 16,248 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its retaliation to Hamas’s assault on southern Israel on October 7, according to authorities in the enclave. In Israel, the official death toll stands at about 1,200.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted on December 10, 1948.

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