Israel’s Intended ‘Buffer Zone’ is a Possible War Crime – UN Official
Israel’s reported attempt to create a “buffer zone” with Gaza could constitute a war crime, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has warned.
The Israeli forces are reportedly destroying all buildings within the Gaza Strip that are within a kilometer of the Israel-Gaza fence, clearing the area with the objective of creating a “buffer zone”, Türk said in a statement on Thursday.
“I stress to the Israeli authorities that Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits destruction by the Occupying Power of property belonging to private persons except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”.’
He added”, “Destructions carried out to create a “buffer zone” for general security purposes do not appear consistent with the narrow “military operations” exception set out in international humanitarian law.”
“Further, extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, amounts to a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a war crime.”
The High Commissioner said that since late October 2023, his office has recorded widespread destruction and demolition by the Israeli forces of civilian and other infrastructure, including residential buildings, schools and universities in areas in which fighting is not or no longer taking place.
‘Impossible Return’ of Displaced
Such demolitions have also occurred in Beit Hanoun in North Gaza, As Shujaiyeh in Gaza City, and An Nuseirat Camp in Middle Gaza, the statement said.
Demolitions have been reported from other areas as well, with reports of destruction of many residential buildings and blocks taking place in Khan Younis in recent weeks.
“Israel has not provided cogent reasons for such extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure,” Türk stated.
Such destruction of homes and other essential civilian infrastructure “also entrenches the displacement of communities that were living in these areas prior to the escalation in hostilities, and appears to be aimed at or has the effect of rendering the return of civilians to these areas impossible,” he emphasized.
“I remind the authorities that forcible transfer of civilians may constitute a war crime,” Türk stated.
According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 27,947 Palestinians have been killed, and 67,459 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.
Moreover, at least 8,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip.
Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.
The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all of the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.