UN says Israeli troops, armed Palestinians may have committed war crimes in raid that freed hostages

UN says Israeli troops, armed Palestinians may have committed war crimes in raid that freed hostages

The United Nations on Tuesday said that war crimes may have been committed by both Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters when Israel rescued four hostages from Gaza over the weekend in a deadly battle that killed at least 274 people.

Jeremy Laurence, spokesperson for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said he was “profoundly shocked at the impact on civilians” when Israeli forces rescued the hostages at the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

“The manner in which the raid was conducted in such a densely populated area seriously calls into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution — as set out under the laws of war — were respected by the Israeli forces,” Laurence said in a press briefing.

Laurence said he was also “deeply distressed that Palestinian armed groups continue to hold many hostages” in densely populated areas of Gaza, which he said is “putting the lives of Palestinian civilians, as well as the hostages themselves, at added risk from the hostilities.”

“All these actions, by both parties, may amount to war crimes,” he added.

Israel rescued the four hostages from Gaza on Saturday but was quickly criticized for the operation after dozens of Palestinians, including women and children, were killed.

Israeli forces had sought to extract the hostages but got bogged down by Hamas fighters in an urban battle, forcing them to call in airstrikes.

Israel is facing increasing pressure to bring the war to an end after more than 36,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza over eight months of war.

Israel is fighting against Hamas after the Palestinian militant group invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking another roughly 250 captive. Around 120 hostages are believed to still be in Gaza, though its unclear how many remain alive.

President Biden has backed a deal that would phase the war out over three stages, including the return of hostages, the release of Palestinian prisoners, the drawback of Israeli forces from populated areas of Gaza and negotiations on a permanent end to the war.

That plan passed the United Nations Security Council on Monday and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the Middle East to push for the proposal to be accepted by both Hamas and Israel.

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