Live Updates: In Chaotic Gaza Scene, Many Are Killed and Wounded as Israelis Open Fire

Live Updates: In Chaotic Gaza Scene, Many Are Killed and Wounded as Israelis Open Fire

The top human rights official at the United Nations condemned Israel’s military offensive in Gaza in an especially forceful statement on Thursday and warned that an assault on Rafah would add a new level of horror to the war.

The terror attacks by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups on Oct. 7 were “appalling and entirely wrong,” said Volker Türk, the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights. But, he added, “so is the brutality of the Israeli response.”

He laid out the toll of its military campaign: what the United Nations estimates is 100,000 dead, injured or missing Palestinians, amounting to one in 20 of Gaza’s people; the unprecedented number of deaths of U.N. employees and journalists; some 17,000 Palestinian children orphaned or separated from their families.

“There appear to be no bounds to, no words to capture, the horrors that are unfolding before our eyes in Gaza,” he said in an address to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “This is carnage.”

Mr. Türk was opening a council discussion of a report by his office on developments in Gaza and the West Bank, highlighting the human and physical devastation of the war in Gaza and the “profoundly discriminatory systems of control” and “endless humiliation” of Israel’s policies in occupied territories.

His statement drew a rebuke from Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, who condemned it as “an affront” to the victims of the Oct. 7 attack.

Ms. Eilon Shahar said that the United Nations and the council had ignored Israel’s security concerns for years, and she noted that Mr. Türk’s statement did not mention the hundreds of Israelis killed in attacks before and after Oct. 7. “Do they not matter?” she asked.

Ms. Eilon Shahar defended Israel’s campaign, saying its approach to dealing with terrorist groups that were using civilians as human shields was consistent with international law. Turning to acknowledge two former hostages behind her, Aviva Siegel and Raz Ben-Ami, whose husbands are still being held in Gaza, she said the high commissioner had reduced them to “a mere footnote” in the council’s discourse.

Mr. Türk said that Israel’s blockade and siege of Gaza amounted to collective punishment of its population, which is a war crime, and could amount to using starvation as a weapon of war, also a war crime. “All people in Gaza are at imminent risk of famine,” he said, and many in the north of the territory, which international aid agencies have been struggling to reach for weeks, were already reportedly starving.

Israel’s planned ground assault on Rafah “would take the nightmare being inflicted on people in Gaza into a new, dystopian dimension,” he added, urging states with influence to try to avert it.

The U.N. human rights office has recorded many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces, Mr. Türk said, warning of a real risk that any arms supplied to Israel could be used in violations of international law. In remarks aimed at Israel’s main arms suppliers, a list headed by the United States, he said countries should stop enabling such violations.

The United States has said that it supports Israel’s right to self-defense and that U.S. officials have made clear that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law, including taking steps to minimize harm to civilians. Israel has rejected allegations that it has committed war crimes in its operations.

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