UN Human Rights Office Issues Damning Report on Israeli Military Strikes in Gaza in 2023

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a damning report on Israeli military actions in Gaza in 2023, revealing that six major attacks caused numerous civilian casualties and massive destruction of civilian infrastructure.

These attacks raise serious concerns about respect for the laws of war, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attacks. The report details six attacks involving the suspected use of GBU-31 (2000 lbs), GBU-32 (1000 lbs) and GBU-39 (250 lbs) guided bombs between October 9 and December 2, 2023, targeting residential buildings, a school, refugee camps and a market.

The Human Rights Commission confirmed 218 deaths from these attacks, although the actual number of victims could be much higher according to the information received. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk expressed his concerns in a statement issued this Wednesday, saying: “It appears the principle of selecting methods and means of warfare to avoid or minimize civilian harm was systematically violated in the Israeli bombardment campaign.”

Turk criticized the methods and means used by Israel in its operations in Gaza since October 7, particularly the intensive use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas, which failed to ensure effective distinction between civilians and combatants. He added: “Civilian lives and infrastructure are protected under international humanitarian law. This law imposes clear obligations on parties to armed conflicts to prioritize civilian protection.”

The report indicates one of the most devastating Israeli attacks occurred on December 2, 2023 in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza, causing destruction over a 130-meter diameter area, demolishing 15 buildings and damaging at least 14 others. Verified visual evidence and satellite imagery show nine GBU-31 bombs were likely used, killing at least 60 people.

The GBU-31, GBU-32 and GBU-39 bombs are primarily used to penetrate multiple floors of concrete and can completely destroy tall structures. Given the population density of the targeted areas, the use of these wide-area weapons likely amounts to an indiscriminate attack prohibited under international law, the report concludes, adding that the effects of these munitions cannot be limited as required by law in these areas, causing harm to both military targets and civilians and civil infrastructure.

The report also highlights that no advance warning was issued for five of the six attacks, raising concerns about adherence to the principle of precaution in attacks to protect civilians. Turk called on Israel to release detailed findings on these incidents and ensure full and independent investigations to determine those responsible for violations, hold them accountable and secure victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations.

About محمد الفاسي