GENEVA (5 July 2023) – Israeli air strikes and ground operations in the occupied West Bank targeting the Jenin Refugee camp and killing at least 12 Palestinians may prima facie constitute a war crime, UN experts said today.
“Israeli forces’ operations in the occupied West Bank, killing and seriously injuring the occupied population, destroying their homes and infrastructure, and arbitrarily displacing thousands, amount to egregious violations of international law and standards on the use of force and may constitute a war crime,” the experts said.
Between 3 and 4 July, Israeli forces killed at least 12 Palestinians, including five children, and injured more than 100 Palestinians, in one of Israel’s biggest military operations in the occupied West Bank in years. The attacks forced thousands of Palestinians to flee and damaged infrastructure, houses and apartment buildings.
“The attacks were the fiercest in the West Bank since the destruction of the Jenin camp in 2002,” the UN experts said.
They pointed to multiple reports about ambulances being prevented from accessing Jenin Refugee Camp to evacuate the wounded, hampering their access to medical assistance.
Around 4,000 Palestinians reportedly fled the Jenin Refugee Camp overnight on Monday and Tuesday after the deadly air strikes.
“It is heart-breaking to see thousands of Palestinian refugees originally displaced since 1947-1949, forced to march out of the camp in abject fear at the dead of night,” the experts said.
Denouncing so-called “counter terrorism” operations by Israeli forces, the experts said the attacks found no justification under international law.
“The attacks constitute collective punishment of the Palestinian population, who have been labelled a “collective security threat” in the eyes of Israeli authorities,” they said.
They expressed grave concern about military weaponry and tactics deployed by Israel’s occupation forces at least twice over the last two weeks against Jenin’s population.
“The Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory are protected persons under international law, guaranteed of all human rights including the presumption of innocence,” the experts said. “They cannot be treated as a collective security threat by the occupying Power, all the more while it advances the annexation of occupied Palestinian land, and displacement and dispossession of its Palestinian residents.”
The experts said Israel’s operations in Jenin were amplifications of the structural violence that has permeated the occupied Palestinian territory for decades.
“The impunity that Israel has enjoyed for its acts of violence over decades, only fuel and intensify the recurring cycle of violence,” they said.
The UN experts called for Israel to be held accountable under international law for its illegal occupation and violent acts to perpetuate it.
“For this relentless violence to end, Israel’s illegal occupation must end. It cannot be corrected or improved in the margins, because it is wrong to the core,” they said.
*The experts: Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.