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UN rights chief condemns Israel's actions as 'disproportionate'

UN Human Rights Commissioner Volker Turk criticized Israel's actions in Gaza, labeling them as "disproportionate" and describing the situation there as "terrible." He highlighted the essential role of UNRWA for Palestinians in Gaza and expressed concern over Western nations suspending funds for the agency.

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published February 12,2024

UN Human Rights Commissioner Volker Turk has criticized Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip, calling them "disproportionate."

In a short interview with the Austrian public broadcaster ORF on Monday morning, Turk described the situation in Gaza as "terrible."

The UN has become a pawn in the conflict, he said.

Criticizing Western nations for suspending funds for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Turk said UNRWA is indispensable for the people in Gaza.

Turk will take part in an informal meeting of EU development ministers in Brussels on Monday. UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini will also be present at the meeting.

As far as the situation of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza is concerned, "I can't really think of any more words", Turk told ORF.

He said he was "alarmed and dismayed" by the Israeli announcement to extend the war against Hamas to Rafah in southern Gaza.

In the meantime, 1.4 million Palestinians have sought refuge from the Israeli attacks in the town on the border with Egypt - but according to Turk, "without sufficient food, without sufficient humanitarian support."

Stating there was clear evidence of Israeli war crimes, he said 100,000 people were seriously affected and 27,000 dead -- two thirds of them women and children.

In addition, there are 60,000 to 70,000 injured, Turk said.

The enormous destruction, half of the houses, large areas of agricultural land and the ongoing cut-off from humanitarian aid speak for "collective punishment," he added.

This is a violation of international humanitarian law, he said.