UN Secretary-General ‘gravely concerned’ about ‘dangerous’ escalating violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Kamilla Sorskar Engen, International Law and Affairs Officer

10 May 2021

Guterres urged Israeli security forces to ‘exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force’, whilst noting that ‘indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centers is unacceptable.’ He added that the UN was working ‘with all relevant parties to deescalate the situation urgently.’

According to reports cited by the UN, over 900 Palestinians have been injured in East Jerusalem between 7 and 10 May, as well as over 200 in the West Bank. Most of those were injured by Israeli security forces. As of 13 May, the Ministry of Health in Gaza have reported at least 83 dead, including 17 children, and over 480 injured.

Meanwhile, armed groups in the OPT have launched around 250 rockets into Israel, resulting in injuries to at least 17 Israeli civilians. Indiscriminate attacks and use of indiscriminate weapons are forbidden under international humanitarian law (IHL) - in both customary IHL and as defined in Article 51(4) of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. This also concerns airstrikes conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the OHCHR, stated that ‘Israel must respect international humanitarian law, in particular the cardinal principles on the conduct of hostilities, namely distinction, proportionality and precautions. Any attack, including airstrikes, should be directed solely at military objectives and all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid civilian deaths and injury and damage to civilian objects.’ He also noted that ‘Israel must also refrain from taking punitive measures, such as additional closures and restrictions, that punish the entire civilian population of Gaza.’
On Wednesday, Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), referred to ‘the possible commission of crimes under the Rome statute.’ This essentially means that certain acts committed potentially amount to war crimes.

Finally, the UN again appealed for ‘the cessation of all illegal Israeli policies and practices, including all settlement activities, house demolitions, evictions and any other acts of collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population.’

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