UNITED NATIONS: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk warned on Saturday that there was the potential for thousands more civilians to die as Israel presses a ground operation in Gaza.
“Given the manner in which military operations have been conducted until now, in the context of the 56-year-old occupation, I am raising alarm about the possibly catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza and the potential for thousands more civilians to die,” he said.
Israel’s army relentlessly hammered Gaza on Saturday after a fierce overnight bombardment that rescuers said destroyed hundreds of buildings three weeks into a war sparked by the deadliest attack in the country’s history.
Israel unleashed its bombing campaign after Hamas gunmen stormed across the Gaza border on October 7, killing 1,400 people.
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza said Israeli strikes had killed 7,703 people, mainly civilians, including more than 3,500 children.
The conflict is the fifth and deadliest in Gaza since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Palestinian territory in 2005.
The latest Israeli strikes against Hamas, the resistance group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, were the most intense since the war broke out. They coincided with ground operations.
UN overwhelmingly calls for aid truce between Israel and Hamas
Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly called for an immediate humanitarian truce between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas and demanded aid access to the besieged Gaza Strip and protection of civilians.
The resolution drafted by Arab states is not binding but carries political weight, taking the global temperature as Israel steps up ground operations in Gaza in retaliation for the worst Hamas attack on civilians in Israel’s 75-year-old history.
It passed to a round of applause with 120 votes in favour, while 45 abstained and 14 – including Israel and the United States – voted no. Iraq later changed its vote to yes from an abstention after complaining of a technical difficulty, so the final tally was 121 votes in favour and 44 abstentions.
A two-thirds majority was needed for the resolution to pass, in which abstentions do not count. The General Assembly voted after the Security Council failed four times in the past two weeks to take action.
“It sends the message to everyone enough is enough. This war has to stop, the carnage against our people has to stop and humanitarian assistance should begin to enter the Gaza Strip,” Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan rejected the resolution, saying the UN no longer holds any legitimacy or relevance and accused those who voted yes of preferring to support “the defence of Nazi terrorists” instead of Israel.
“This ridiculous resolution has the audacity to call for truce. The goal of this resolution truce is that Israel should cease to defend itself to Hamas, so Hamas can light us on fire,” he told the General Assembly after the vote.
A Canadian-led bid to amend the resolution to include a rejection and condemnation of the “terrorist attacks by Hamas … and the taking of hostages” failed to get the two thirds majority needed, garnering 88 votes in favour, 55 against and 23 abstentions.
Assembly stresses preventing wider war
As fears grow that the conflict could spark a wider war, the assembly stressed the “importance of preventing further destabilisation and escalation of violence in the region” and called on “all parties to exercise maximum restraint and upon all those with influence on them to work toward this objective.”
The General Assembly called on Israel to rescind its order for civilians in Gaza to move to the south of the enclave. Israel ordered some 1.1 million people in Gaza – almost half the population – to move south on Oct. 12.
The General Assembly also “firmly rejects any attempts at the forced transfer of the Palestinian civilian population.”
Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas, which rules Gaza, after the fighters killed 1,400 people and took hundreds of hostages in an Oct. 7 attack. Israel has struck Gaza from the air, imposed a siege and is preparing a ground invasion. Palestinian authorities say more than 7,000 have been killed.
The General Assembly called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive.” It did not name Hamas anywhere in the text.__Pakistan Today