MiddleEast: Bachelet alarmed by number of Palestinian children killed in latest escalation, urges accountability

Geneva, 11 August, 2022.- UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet today expressed alarm at the high number of Palestinians, including children, killed and injured in the occupied Palestinian territory this year, including in intense hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza last weekend.

In the past week, 19 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied Palestinian territory, taking the death toll since the start of the year to 37. Seventeen children were killed during the Gaza hostilities from 5-7 August, and two more were killed on 9 August in Israeli law enforcement operations in the West Bank.

“Inflicting hurt on any child during the course of conflict is deeply disturbing, and the killing and maiming of so many children this year is unconscionable,” said Bachelet.

The civilian cost of the latest escalation in Gaza from 5-7 August was heavy. The UN Human Rights Office has verified that among the 48 Palestinians killed, there were at least 22 civilians, including 17 children and four women. The status of 22 fatalities remains undetermined. Of the 360 Palestinians reported injured, nearly two-thirds were civilians, including 151 children, 58 women and 19 older people. In a number of incidents, children were the majority of casualties.

A number of Israeli strikes hit prima facie civilian objects, causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects.

“International humanitarian law is clear. Launching an attack which may be expected to incidentally kill or injure civilians, or damage civilian objects, in disproportionate manner to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited. Such attacks must stop,” said Bachelet.

In violation of international humanitarian law, Palestinian armed groups also launched hundreds of rockets and mortars in indiscriminate attacks, causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects in Israel as well as in Gaza. According to the Israeli authorities, a total of 70 Israelis were injured.

While the ceasefire for the latest escalation in Gaza is holding, tensions remain very high in the West Bank, where four Palestinians were killed and 90 others were injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces on 9 August. Among those killed was a 16-year-old boy, shot by Israeli soldiers during an arrest raid in Nablus which also left 76 injured. Another 16-year-old boy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers after some Palestinians threw stones and fireworks at them at a checkpoint in Hebron.

Bachelet said the widespread use of live ammunition by Israeli forces in law enforcement operations across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2022 has led to an alarming increase in Palestinian fatalities. The UN Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territory has this year documented the killing of 74 Palestinians, including 20 children. In many incidents Israeli forces used lethal force in a manner that appeared to be in violation of international human rights law, she added.

The High Commissioner called for prompt, independent, impartial, thorough and transparent investigations into all incidents where any person was killed or injured.

“An almost total lack of accountability persists in the occupied Palestinian territory – whether for violations of international humanitarian law by all parties in hostilities in Gaza, or for recurring Israeli violations of international human rights law and the law of occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, including incidents of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force,” Bachelet said.

“This climate of impunity, along with the long-standing violations, drives the cycle of violence and the recurrence of violations.

“The situation in Palestine is extremely fragile, and events such as in Nablus risk igniting further hostilities in Gaza. The utmost restraint is necessary to prevent further bloodshed, including by ensuring that firearms are used strictly in compliance with international standards,” the High Commissioner said.

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