An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, the United Nation's Human Rights chief is warning.
Israel vowed to take "mighty revenge" after Hamas attacks over the weekend killed 900 people — most civilians. Since the attacks Saturday, Israel has targeted the Gaza Strip with air strikes, which have been reported to be the most devastating bombings throughout 75 years of conflict.
The Israeli military said on Monday that it was imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as calling up over 360,000 reservists. The move signaled that a ground assault may be planned in retaliation.
Nearly 700 Palestinians have been killed in air strikes so far, according to Gaza officials, with entire districts in the area flattened. Hamas has threatened to kill an Israeli hostage every time Israel bombs a Palestinian home without warning.
UN Human Rights chief Volker Türk said in a statement Tuesday that Israel's retaliatory bombings and "seizes" have targeted Palestinian residential buildings and schools, as well as "premises of the UN relief and works agency, UNRWA (U.N. Palestinian refugee agency)" — actions illegal under international law, which Turk said could amount to "collective punishment."
"[Israel's] imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law" he said. "This risks seriously compounding the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Gaza, including the capacity of medical facilities to operate, especially in light of increasing numbers of injured."
U.N. Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani later clarified that such acts may amount to a war crime, and that the review was based on reports from the agency's own monitors on the ground.
Türk also condemned "horrifying mass killings by members of Palestinian armed groups," noting that Hamas' abduction of hostages is also illegal under international law. He called on "all parties" to "respect international humanitarian law" and "immediately cease attacks targeting civilians."
“We know from bitter experience that vengeance is not the answer, and ultimately innocent civilians pay the price,” he continued. “The world cannot afford more polarization. We need to find solutions guided by the full respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”
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