UPDATE - Israeli ground assault on Rafah would be inconsistent with binding ICJ provisional measures: UN rights chief

UPDATE - Israeli ground assault on Rafah would be inconsistent with binding ICJ provisional measures: UN rights chief

'I call on all States with influence to do everything within their power to avert such outcome,' Volker Turk urges- Ground invasion would incur potentially 'massive loss of life, additional risk of atrocity crimes, new displacement, official warns

UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF, UPDATES HEADLINE, DECK, EDITS THROUGHOUT

By Beyza Binnur Donmez

GENEVA (AA) - The UN human rights chief on Thursday warned that an Israeli attack on Rafah, southern Gaza Strip would not be consistent with the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to prevent genocidal acts in the Palestinian enclave, calling on all states to do "everything within their power to avert such an outcome."

Volker Turk's remarks came during his speech at Interactive Dialogue on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory under the 55th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Israel has killed more than 30,000 people in the Gaza Strip since the Oct. 7 offensive by Palestinian group Hamas. About 1,200 people were killed in the initial attacks, and 240 taken hostage, half of whom were released in a brief November truce.

The military campaign has turned Gaza to ruins, and caused mass displacement and suffering. Despite international outcry, Israel says it will launch a ground invasion into the city of Rafah, if a deal is not reached by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Over a million displaced Palestinian refugees are taking shelter in the southern Gazan city.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, and an interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

"The prospect of an Israeli ground assault on Rafah would take the nightmare being inflicted on people in Gaza into a new dimension. Over 1.5 million people are sheltering in Rafah, despite continuing bombardment, and it has become Gaza's humanitarian aid hub," Turk said.

He warned that a ground assault would incur potentially "massive loss of life, additional risk of atrocity crimes, new displacement to another unsafe location distribution, and sign a death warrant for any hope of effective humanitarian aid."

"For my part, I fail to see how such an operation could be consistent with the binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice," he said, adding: "I call on all states with influence to do everything within their power to avert such an outcome."

"The war in Gaza must end," he urged, noting that "clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties."

For a working peace in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, the human rights chief stressed that "the occupation must end."

"Israeli leaders must accept the right of Palestinians to live in an independent state. And all Palestinian factions must acknowledge the right of Israel to exist in peace and security," he said.


- Humanitarian situation 'extremely challenging'

Stressing that the humanitarian assistance has become "extremely challenging" in all parts of Gaza, he lamented that the operational space for humanitarian work is "now almost zero" in northern Gaza.

"The blockade and siege imposed on Gaza amount to collective punishment, and may also amount to the use of starvation as a method of war – both of which, committed intentionally, are war crimes," he said. "In addition, almost all the population of Gaza has been forcibly displaced, and thousands of people have been detained, many of them incommunicado, in conditions that may amount to enforced disappearance."


- 'New slaughter' must be prevented

Speaking at the session, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, urged states to prevent a possible attack on Rafah, saying "we must prevent a new slaughter against them."

He said states must ensure the occupying power is made accountable for a "genocide."

His remarks came after Israeli Ambassador Meirav Eilon Sahar said she does not believe Hamas would release all hostages and drop their weapons if Tel Aviv ends the war. Khraishi rejected the claims.

European Union's permanent representative Lotte Knudsen said the bloc is "very concerned" about the looming ground operation in Rafah.

Knudsen said the EU is also "firmly against settler violence" in the West Bank, and called for accountability.

Finland's ambassador Heidi Schroderus-Fox, speaking for Nordic and Baltic states, said an Israeli attack on Rafah would "worsen already catastrophic" humanitarian situation in the strip, and also called for an immediate cease-fire.

For France, Counsellor Cesar Castelain said Paris is "strongly against" Rafah attack and opposed to any further displacement.

Castelain said a two-state solution as "the only way" to a just and lasting peace in the region.

He asked Israel to guarantee security of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Türkiye’s envoy to the UN in Geneva Guven Begec urged that the decisions of the ICJ be "fully implemented" and "impunity" of Israel must end.

Begec reiterated Ankara's call for an immediate cease-fire, as well as the release of all hostages, and progressing to a two-state solution.

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