November 16, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

The United Nations human rights chief has called on Israel to grant his team access to Gaza to investigate competing claims about the Al-Shifa Hospital.

“We need to look into this by having access. We cannot rely on one or the other party when it comes to this,” Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told CNN’s Beck Anderson when asked about allegations by the Israeli military that Hamas was hiding weapons at the hospital.

He said the situation needs an “independent international investigation, because we have different narratives.”

Pressure on Israel: Israel is under growing international pressure to uncover proof of what it has described as a Hamas command and control center under the Al-Shifa Hospital, as Israeli forces launched a raid at the facility early Wednesday. The Hamas-run government media office denied it was using the hospital as a command and control center — calling the Israeli claims “baseless lies.”

Türk said hospitals had special protection at all times under humanitarian law.

“You cannot use civilian, especially hospitals, for any military purposes. But you also cannot attack a hospital in the absence of clear evidence,” Türk said.

Request for access to Gaza and the West Bank: Türk said investigators could not go to Gaza “while the bombs are falling or while military operations are taking place,” and so his team was monitoring the situation from afar for now. He said he previously asked the Israeli government for access to Gaza and the occupied West Bank but was “still waiting for the answer.”

The actions of both Israel and Hamas since the militant group’s massacre of an estimated 1,200 people on October 7 must be investigated, Türk said.

International humanitarian law in the conflict: Since Hamas launched its brazen October 7 attacks and Israel responded with intensive air strikes and a ground offensive, both sides have been accused of committing war crimes.

“We have seen … grave breaches of international humanitarian law,” Türk said, speaking broadly of the actions from both sides.

“What Hamas did — the horrific killing of civilians, the fact that they took hostages — are clear violations of the law. The fact that we have seen a collective punishment by Israel of Gaza, by cutting off supplies, of medical necessities, of food, of electricity, of water is also [a] very serious matter under international humanitarian law,” Türk said.
“In fact, we consider it a crime, [just] as Hamas was acting criminally by taking hostages and killing civilians. So, indeed, there are issues that we all have to look into because they are very serious. And they require answers. And they require accountability,” Türk said.

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