Dozens of the United Nations‘ rights experts on Thursday condemned Hamas’s “horrific crimes” and said Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip “amounts to collective punishment”.
“There is no justification for violence that indiscriminately targets innocent civilians, whether by Hamas or Israeli forces,” said the experts in a joint statement.
“This is absolutely prohibited under international law and amounts to a war crime.”
They denounced what they called the targeted and deadly violence directed at civilians in Israel.
But they also warned that Israel’s “further tightening of the unlawful blockade” on the Gaza Strip would have devastating impacts on its entire civilian population.
“We strongly condemn the horrific crimes committed by Hamas, the deliberate and widespread killing and hostage-taking of innocent civilians, including older persons and children,” the experts said.
“These actions constitute heinous violations of international law and international crimes, for which there must be urgent accountability,” they added.
“We also strongly condemn Israel’s indiscriminate military attacks against the already exhausted Palestinian people of Gaza, comprising over 2.3 million people, nearly half of whom are children.
“They have lived under unlawful blockade for 16 years, and already gone through five major brutal wars, which remain unaccounted for. This amounts to collective punishment.”
UN experts are unpaid, independent figures mandated by the Human Rights Council. They do not speak for the UN but report their findings to it.
Among the signatories were the UN special rapporteurs on rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, drinking water, adequate housing, involuntary disappearances, violence against women, the sexual abuse of children, arbitrary executions, Iran, food, and inhuman treatment.
Joint statements by UN experts rarely attract so many signatories.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in a war that has seen the death toll spiral into the thousands, following the Islamist group’s surprise attack — the worst in Israel’s 75-year history — which Israeli forces said killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
In Gaza, officials have reported more than 1,200 people killed in Israel’s uninterrupted campaign of air and artillery strikes, while the UN humanitarian agency said more than 338,000 people had been displaced.