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UN rights chief calls for probe, rights groups sue Israel at ICC for Gaza ‘genocide’

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk holds a press conference in Amman, Jordan, on November 10, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

The United Nations human rights chief has called for an investigation into Israel's use of "high-impact explosive weapons" in the Gaza Strip as the regime presses ahead with its brutal onslaught against the besieged area for more than a month.

Volker Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, made the call in a news conference during a visit to Jordan's capital of Amman on Friday and said the high-impact explosive weapons used by Israel had caused indiscriminate destruction in the Gaza Strip.

"The extensive Israeli bombardment of Gaza, including the use of high-impact explosive weapons in densely populated areas ... is clearly having a devastating humanitarian and human rights impact," Turk told reporters in Amman, without specifying what weapons he was referring to.

"The attacks must be investigated ... We have very serious concerns that these amount to disproportionate attacks in breach of international humanitarian law."

Israel waged the war on Gaza on October 7 after Palestinian resistance groups launched the surprise Operation Al-Aqsa Storm into the occupied territories in response to the Israeli regime’s intensified crimes against Palestinians.

The Palestinian resistance movements of Hamas and Islamic jihad fired about 5,000 missiles at the occupied territories, killing at least 1,400 Israeli troops and settlers, also taking captive some 250 Israelis during their attack.

Since then, the occupying regime has embarked on an incessant bombardment of the Gaza Strip, with the Gaza-based health ministry announcing on Friday that 11,078 people, including 4,506 children, have been killed, and 27,490 others have sustained injuries.

The Tel Aviv regime has also blocked access to water, food, and electricity in Gaza, plunging the coastal area into a humanitarian crisis.

Israel must protect Palestinians in West Bank

Speaking at the news conference, Turk called on the Israeli regime to take immediate action to safeguard Palestinians in the occupied West Bank as they face ramped-up violence in the wake of the occupying entity’s ongoing onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip.

"I also appeal, as a matter of urgency, for Israeli authorities to take immediate measures, to take steps to ensure the protection of Palestinians in the West Bank, who are being on a daily basis subjected to violence from Israeli forces and settlers, ill treatment, arrests, evictions, intimidation and humiliation," Turk told reporters.

Highlighting the grim statistics, the UN human rights chief said 176 Palestinians, including 43 children and one woman, had lost their lives in incidents involving Israeli security forces since October 7, when the regime launched a bombardment campaign against Gaza.

At least eight Palestinians fell victim to violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers.

Turk underlined Israel's responsibility to thoroughly investigate all incidents of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank promptly and effectively, providing victims with the remedies they deserve.

The UN human rights chief condemned the prevailing impunity for such violations by the Israeli regime, denouncing it as "unacceptable, dangerous, and a clear violation of Israel's obligation under international human rights law."

The escalating violence in the occupied West Bank has raised concerns that the region could evolve into a broader conflict as the Israeli regime has for the past 35 days been pounding the besieged Gaza Strip with missiles.

Palestinian rights groups submit anti-Israel lawsuit at ICC

In another development on Friday, three Palestinian rights organizations filed a lawsuit in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and called on the institution to probe Israel for enforcing an apartheid system and committing genocide in Gaza.

Lodged by Al-Haq, Al Mezan, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the lawsuit stressed the need for immediate “attention to the continuous barrage of Israeli air strikes on densely populated civilian areas within the Gaza Strip.”

The legal document also urged the ICC to broaden its ongoing investigation into war crimes by examining issues such as “the suffocating siege imposed on [Gaza], the forced displacement of its population, the use of toxic gas, and the deprivation of essential necessities like food, water, fuel, and electricity.”

These actions, as asserted in the lawsuit, constitute “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity,” encompassing allegations of “genocide.” Moreover, the three organizations called for the issuance of arrest warrants targeting Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Military Affairs Minister Yoav Gallant.

Since 2021, the ICC has been investigating Israel’s violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly looking into the occupation’s possible war crimes and crimes against humanity from 2014 onwards.

Israel is not a member of the ICC and rejects the court’s jurisdiction. The illegal entity has previously refused to formally engage with the international tribunal’s investigations.

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