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UN rights office says Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia refugee camp could amount to ‘war crime’

A man gestures as Palestinians search for casualties a day after Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, November 1, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

The United Nations human rights office says Israel’s barrage of airstrikes on Jabalia refugee camp in the besieged Gaza Strip could amount to a “war crime," as the deadly strikes have so far claimed scores of Palestinian lives.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Israel conducted heavy bombardment against Jabalia refugee camp, situated near Gaza City.

At least 195 people have been confirmed dead with more than 100 believed to be missing beneath the rubble as a result of the airstrikes on the refugee camp. Some 777 people were injured in the attacks.

In a statement on Thursday, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that the high number of casualties and scale of destruction raise questions about proportionality.

“Given the high number of civilian casualties [and] the scale of destruction following Israeli air strikes on Jabalia refugee camp, we have serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes,” it said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Jabalia is the largest of the Gaza Strip's UN refugee camps housing people forcibly expelled by Zionist militia and Israel in 1948. The area is reportedly home to nearly 120,000 people.

The statement follows a wave of condemnation from the UN, where officials expressed shock and horror at the attacks on the crowded refugee camp.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “is appalled over the escalating violence in Gaza, including the killing of Palestinians, including women and children in Israeli air strikes in residential areas of the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp,” said spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Wednesday.

The UN’s children’s agency, UNICEF, also described the attacks as “horrific and appalling.”

“This is just the latest atrocity to befall the people of Gaza where the fighting has entered an even more terrifying phase, with increasingly dreadful humanitarian consequences,” said Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian chief, for his part.

“The world seems unable, or unwilling, to act. This cannot go on. We need a step change,” he stressed.

The civilian death toll in Gaza and desperate humanitarian conditions have caused great concern across the world as food, fuel, drinking water and medicine are running short.

On October 7, Israel launched a full-scale war on the impoverished Gaza Strip, where shortages of food, water, and medicine threaten the lives of Gazans and hospitals are overwhelmed amid incessant Israeli bombings.

The ceaseless airstrikes, missile attacks and shelling on Gaza have killed, as of Wednesday, 8,796 Palestinians, including 3,648 children and 2,290 women, and wounded at least 22,219 others, according to officials.

Around 2,000 people are still missing, including 1,100 children. The vast majority of these people are believed to be dead and buried under rubble.

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