Western Nations Urge Israel to Comply with International Law in Gaza 

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
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Western Nations Urge Israel to Comply with International Law in Gaza 

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)

Israel must comply with international law in Gaza and address the devastating humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave, a group of Western nations wrote in a letter to the Israeli government seen by Reuters on Friday.

All countries belonging to the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies, apart from the United States, signed the letter, along with Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The five-page letter comes as Israeli forces bear down on the southern Gaza city of Rafah as part of its drive to eradicate Hamas, despite warnings this could result in mass casualties in an area where displaced civilians have found shelter.

"In exerting its right to defend itself, Israel must fully comply with international law, including international humanitarian law," the letter said, reiterating "outrage" for the Oct. 7 Hamas raid into Israel which triggered the conflict.

Israel denies blocking humanitarian aid and says it needs to eliminate Hamas for its own protection.

The Western nations said they were opposed to "a full-scale military operation in Rafah" and called on Israel to let humanitarian aid reach the population "through all relevant crossing points, including the one in Rafah".

"According to UN estimates, an intensified military offensive would affect approximately 1.4 million people," the letter said, underscoring the need "for specific, concrete and measurable steps" to significantly boost the flow of aid.

The letter recognizes Israel made progress in addressing a number of issues, including letting more aid trucks into the Gaza Strip, the reopening of the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and the temporary use of Ashdod port in southern Israel.

But it called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to do more, including working towards a "sustainable ceasefire", facilitating further evacuations and resuming "electricity, water and telecommunication services".

Since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, Israel's Gaza offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, local health officials say. Hamas-led gunmen killed some 1,200 people and abducted 253 in their attack to Israel, according to Israeli tallies.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.