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UN Says Gaza Civilian Deaths In Israeli Raid Could Be War Crimes

UN Says Gaza Civilian Deaths In Israeli Raid Could Be War Crimes

The UN human rights office stated on Tuesday that the deaths of civilians in Gaza during Israel’s operation to free four hostages, along with Palestinian armed groups holding captives in densely populated areas, could constitute war crimes.

Israel conducted the operation, accompanied by an air assault, on Saturday in the heart of a residential neighborhood in central Gaza’s Nuseirat area, where Hamas fighters had kept the hostages in two separate apartment blocks.

The operation resulted in the civilian deaths of more than 270 Palestinians.

Read more: Hamas Reacts to Egypt, Qatar Regarding Gaza Ceasefire Plan

Jeremy Laurence, spokesperson for the UN human rights office, raised concerns about the manner in which the raid was conducted in such a densely populated area, questioning whether the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution were respected by the Israeli forces as outlined under the laws of war.

Laurence also criticized the holding of hostages in densely populated areas by Palestinian armed groups, stating that it put the lives of Palestinian civilians and the hostages at added risk from the hostilities.

According to Laurence, these actions by both parties may amount to war crimes.

In response to the UN statement, Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva accused the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights of “slandering Israel.”

The conflict in Gaza began when Hamas fighters entered Israel on October 7, killing approximately 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s subsequent bombardment and invasion of Gaza resulted in the deaths of over 37,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave.

Gunmen brought around 250 hostages back to Gaza on October 7, more than 100 of whom were released in exchange for about 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails during a week-long truce in November.

According to Israeli tallies, there are 116 hostages remaining in the coastal enclave, including at least 40 whom Israeli authorities have declared dead in absentia.