UN experts demand ceasefire, warn Gaza is ‘running out of time’

The Palestinian people ‘are at grave risk of genocide,’ UN special rapporteurs say. ‘The time for action is now.’

Palestinians inspect the damage of buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on Jabaliya refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City
Palestinians inspect the damage to buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes on Jabalia refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City, October 31, 2023 [Abdul Qade/AP Photo]

United Nations experts have called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, saying time was running out for the Palestinian people who are at “grave risk of genocide”.

Nearly four weeks of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for attacks by Hamas gunmen in southern Israel on October 7 have killed more than 9,000 people, health authorities say, a majority of them women and children.

“We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide,” the group of experts, made up of seven UN special rapporteurs, said on Thursday in a statement. “We demand a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure that aid reaches those who need it the most.”

The experts have also expressed “deepening horror” about Israeli air strikes on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza since Tuesday night – strikes that have reportedly killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians – and have called this a brazen breach of international law.

They said they were concerned about the safety of UN and humanitarian workers, hospitals and schools that are providing refuge to the people of Gaza, and the safety of journalists, media workers and their family members.

The Israeli mission to the UN in Geneva said it was preparing a response to the experts’ remarks.

The International Criminal Court defines the crime of genocide as the specific intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means, including imposing measures intended to prevent births or forcibly transferring children from one group to another.

On October 28, departing senior UN human rights official Craig Mokhiber wrote to the High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, saying “We are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the Organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it.”

The UN rights office said that Mokhiber’s planned retirement took effect this week and that his views were “personal” and did not reflect those of the office.

The supply of aid to Gaza has been choked since Israel began bombarding the densely populated enclave, with aid organisations saying it is nowhere near matching the needs of the people there.

“The situation in Gaza has reached a catastrophic tipping point,” the UN experts said, adding that Gazans had been left with scarce water, medicine, fuel and essential supplies while facing health hazards.

They also pointed to Israel’s allies, which they said “bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action”.

“We call on Israel and its allies to agree to an immediate ceasefire,” the UN experts said. “We are running out of time.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies