UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has voiced strong criticism over what he labeled as Israel’s “excessive use of force” in a major operation in Jenin, a refugee camp located in the occupied West Bank. This marks the country’s largest such operation in the last 20 years. As a result, more than 100 civilians have been injured, and critical infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, water and electricity networks, has suffered significant damage. Guterres has called on Israel to observe its obligations under international law, noting that the country’s actions may potentially constitute a war crime.
by Janice McAllister
Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, has vehemently criticized the Israeli military for its large-scale and forceful operation against the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, labeling it as the biggest of its kind in two decades.
The operation, as reported by Guterres on Thursday, has led to injuries among over 100 civilians. The ensuing turmoil has displaced thousands, causing damage to various civilian structures such as schools and hospitals, and interrupting essential services like water and electricity.
Guterres additionally pointed out that the Israeli forces hindered the delivery of medical aid to the injured and obstructed humanitarian workers from providing assistance to the needy.
He highlighted Israel’s responsibility as an occupying power, stating that “it must ensure that the civilian population is safeguarded against all forms of violence”.
Guterres voiced deep concern about the intensity of the violence, stating, “Israel’s airstrikes and ground maneuvers in a densely populated refugee camp represent the worst outbreak of violence in the West Bank in recent years, inflicting substantial harm on civilians.”
The UN head reiterated his call for Israel to comply with international law. He expressed, “The use of airstrikes runs contrary to the rules governing law enforcement operations.”
“While Israel’s security concerns are legitimate, an escalation is not the solution,” he said.
A significant number of Palestinians, totaling at least 12, lost their lives in the two-day raid on the camp. About 1,000 Israeli soldiers were involved, employing air attacks and deliberately damaging civilian infrastructure such as roads, water, and electricity supplies.
Hospitals in Jenin also fell victim to the Israeli forces’ attacks, resulting in “severe damage to their operational capacity”, according to Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI). The organization stated, “Five civilians were injured as a result, including three in serious condition,” adding that, “When hospitals are attacked, and their protected status is ignored, the resulting damage is severe.”
Guterres’s strong condemnation came on the heels of a statement issued by three independent UN human rights experts on Wednesday. They characterized the Israeli air attacks and ground operations in Jenin as “egregious violations of international law and standards on the use of force, potentially amounting to a war crime.”
These experts, specializing in human rights issues in the Palestinian territories, internal displacement, and violence against women and girls, demanded accountability for Israel’s continued illegal occupation and violent actions.
Reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo quoted the Secretary-General as being “deeply disturbed” by the incidents in Jenin and firmly denouncing “all acts of violence against civilians”.
He added, “When asked if the Israeli raid on Jenin could be characterized as a war crime, the Secretary-General chose not to comment on the question,” said Elizondo.
(Associated Medias) – All right reserved