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‘The time for action is now’ — UN experts demand humanitarian ceasefire to prevent genocide in Gaza

‘The time for action is now’ — UN experts demand humanitarian ceasefire to prevent genocide in Gaza
A participant displays a placard during a protest in solidarity with people of Gaza in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, Germany, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Clemens Bilan)

United Nations special rapporteurs have made a clarion call for a ceasefire to ‘prevent genocide and humanitarian catastrophe’ in the besieged Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, 2 November, United Nations experts demanded a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, warning that time is running out for the Palestinians who are at “grave risk of genocide”.

The Gaza Strip is home to about 2.3 million people, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the world. The region has been hit by a barrage of Israeli air attacks in the nearly four weeks since Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

More than 9,000 people have been killed in Gaza as Israel has carried out its campaign of retaliatory air strikes, including more than 3,700 children, according to Palestinian health authorities in Gaza. A further 134 have been killed in the occupied West Bank. A report by a UN commission of inquiry, chaired by former South African judge Navi Pillay, confirmed that “civilians are the primary victims”.

“We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide,” the group of seven UN special rapporteurs said in a statement on Thursday. 

“The time for action is now. Israel’s allies also bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action.

“All parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. We demand a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure that aid reaches those who need it the most. A ceasefire also means channels of communication can be opened to ensure the release of hostages,” they said. 

Members of an Israeli artillery unit at a position near the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel, 03 November 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/ATEF SAFADI)

On 28 October, the outgoing director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Craig Mokhiber, wrote to High Commissioner Volker Türk, saying: “We are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the organisation we serve appears powerless to stop it.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Gaza assault is a textbook case of genocide – top official tells UN in resignation letter

The International Criminal Court defines the crime of genocide as “the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

The specialists behind the UN’s statement are Professor Pedro Arrojo Agudo, special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; Professor Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food; Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Paula Gaviria Betancur, special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Irene Khan, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestine Territory occupied since 1967; and Dr Ashwini KP, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. 

An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile over the Gaza Strip, as seen from Sderot, Israel, 03 November 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/ATEF SAFADI)

Special rapporteurs form part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN’s human rights system. 

More than 22,000 people have been wounded in nearly four weeks of Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip. The health system is buckling under the pressure, and humanitarian aid organisations have condemned the trickle of aid that has entered Gaza since 7 October. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa calls for supply of weapons to Israel and Hamas to cease, as more aid enters Gaza

“The situation in Gaza has reached a catastrophic tipping point,” the UN experts said, adding that Gazans are in dire need of food, water, medicine, fuel and essential supplies. Before 7 October about 500 trucks carrying essential supplies crossed into Gaza every day, World Health Organization director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Thursday night. 

Since 7 October, only 217 trucks in total had entered the enclave. 

“We want to remind all parties that humanitarian and medical personnel and facilities are protected under international law. States have an obligation to ensure their safety and protection during times of war,” they said. 

“As the secretary-general has repeatedly reiterated, Israel and Palestinian armed groups must bear in mind that even wars have rules.” DM

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  • Enver Klein says:

    Excluding Gaza, how do so many Christians standby and watch what is happening in Palestine? Overlooking the Old City is the Protestant cemetery on the steep slopes of Mount Zion, where tradition holds the Last Supper took place. Many of the tombstones in the historic cemetery bear dates from the 1800s, but now many are broken, tipped over and trashed. In January, security camera footage revealed two young men, both wearing traditional clothing associated with Orthodox Jews, breaking into the cemetery and desecrating the headstones. At the Church of the Flagellation, along the path where Jesus is said to have carried his cross on the way to his crucifixion, a 10-foot statue of Jesus had been wrested off its pedestal and thrown to the ground, its face partially destroyed. When the church’s doorman tackled the man suspected of toppling the statue, Jewish ritual tassels that had been concealed under his clothes emerged. All Palestinians are under attack, Jews and Christians, included.

  • Charles Thatcher says:

    This is an all-out war to save the Jewish state. Its not possible to ‘pause’ like a video recording. The IDF must annihalate Hamas’ military force for now, and stop the rockets and murderers in their steps.
    After that, they must eliminate all remaining traces of Hamas.
    Antisemitism is showing up all over the world; obviously in tthe arab world, but also in Germany and Austria which were front runners in the 1930s, and participants in Holocaust I.

    • Biff Trotters says:

      “This is an all-out war to save the Jewish state.” WHAT!!!! With 10000 Palestinians killed by the IDF so far, possibly including a few hundred Hamas soldiers, you’re saying the Jewish state is in need of saving? The Oct 7 attack by Hamas is unforgivable, agreed, so the remedy is genocide? On the basis of an eye for an eye, surely 10000 cheap Palestinian lives are equal to 1400 expensive Jewish ones, so please, ENOUGH! Israel is in the middle of the Arab world – this war, if anything, will trigger the demise of the Jewish state.

      • Denise Smit says:

        This is not war on children or woman, it is war on the Hamas terrorists. You can call them nothing but terrorists, and you try to give an impression that you condemn their actions but clearly you have turned a forgiving eye on the brutal atrocities that they committed on innocent children, woman , families, young people, elderly without prior warning. That was genocide in barbaric fashion. And they still have 240 hostages, of which one is 9 months old. You forget very quickly , and Hamas is reporting on the number of casualties and you accept without question what they report. Will you accept the reporting of Isis? Their word is the same. Hamas use children and woman and hide in hospitals and schools behind their own people to protect themselves. Denise Smit

      • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

        Don’t lecture to us about genocide! Genocide is the industrialized murder of 6 million of my people. You want the fighting in Gaza to stop? Ask the Gazan government, yes their government is Hamas, to release our hostages including a 9 month infant. Yes that might stop the killing – let them vote their government out – last time they voted was in 2006.

      • Ben Harper says:

        So according to your reckoning, the allied victory in WW2 was wrong. Far more German civilians were killed in WW2 than allied civilians.

  • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

    That ‘reliable’ source of information on casualties is the same ‘reliable’ source that reported that Israel had bombed a hospital, (Palestinian Health Authority), only to discover the truth of an errant rocket fired by Hamas falling short. Calling for a ‘pause’? wasn’t there a 3 week pause prior to the IDF ground forces going into Gaza, with targeted air strikes. Urging people to move to safer ground? Where was Egypt offering refuge to their fellow Arabs? Oh they lost the key for the gate at Rafa border, with doors securely closed to any humanitarian cause.Yes follow the narrative of the editors whose funding for their publications needs to be a little more scrutinized. Cant recall anyone demanding a ceasefire or pause when Assad was bombing the schools and hospitals of Aleppo and Idlib claiming more that 500,000 lives. Or calls for a ceasefire in Yemen or Sudan or the Congo or, or, or – No only when its those monstrous Jews defending themselves, that’s when humanitarians creep out of the woodwork!

    • Enver Klein says:

      Because it’s not monstrous Jews, but monstrous Zionists …

    • Izzy Trees says:

      The Israeli Air Force boasted on Twitter (X) on October 12th that it had already dropped 6,000 bombs. Since then it has only intensified air strikes. Explain the logic where you drop so many bombs and yet still deny the casualty figures emerging out of Gaza?! Also, see 10 October Guardian article where IDF spokesperson R Adm Daniel Hagari admits that “the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy” to explain away the unacceptable civilian toll! On the hospital bombing, we know this is an emerging investigation and that the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “What We Know About the Gaza Hospital Blast” which calls into question the “evidence” provided by the IDF that the blast came from within Gaza. Also note that the IDF has admitted to bombing a convoy of ambulances at the entrance of Al Shifa hospital on November 4th. The bombing of refugee camps, the bombing of ambulances, the bombing of civilian infrastructure, the use of starvation as a weapon of war, the blocking of international aid – all of these are clear VIOLATIONS of international and humanitarian law. This is why the world is opposing the actions of Israel – it has NOTHING to do with being Jewish or non-Jewish, and EVERYTHING to do with basic humanity.

  • natventer says:

    These comments above show why there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this unbearable conflict. Innocent civilians are being slaughtered on all sides while politics and arrogance decide the fate of innocent lives. We are all to blame.
    Humanity has lost even the slightest inkling of empathy, tolerance and love. This is deeply saddening and worrying, and the intolerance and hatred is growing worldwide. Everyone is justified, right?
    I am ashamed of the human race.

  • Enver Klein says:

    And while Zionists hide under the “cloak of Judaism”, the IDF brutally attacking Jews inside Israel, it’s horrifying to see elderly Jews being bashed to the ground and beaten with rifle butts. Bibi has caused a lot of sympathy felt for Jews post-WWII, to turn to hatred. Every Rabbi I have spoken to says that Zionism is not Judaism.

    • dexter m says:

      1. what is Zionism ,i assumed was like catholic,anglican etc christians .2. what percentage of jews are zionist

      • Enver Klein says:

        Not enough space to answer your question. Very briefly, it’s largely based on Judaism, but they have “changed” some laws and they don’t align to the oaths of the Talmud.

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