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Israel May Have Breached International Law With Gaza Evacuation, UN Office Says

Palestinian officials have said that hospitals across Gaza only have 24 hours of fuel reserve left for their generators.

Displaced Palestinian families from the northern and central Gaza Strip evacuate toward southern Gaza on October 13, 2023.

Israel may be in breach of international law after ordering the evacuation of over 1 million Palestinians from northern Gaza last week, the United Nations human rights office has said.

UN human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that the warning may amount to a “forcible transfer of civilians” after the country ordered people to evacuate indefinitely and without providing any form of accommodations in southern Gaza. A forcible transfer of civilian populations is a crime against humanity that is punishable by the International Criminal Court.

“We are concerned that this order, combined with the imposition of a complete siege of Gaza, may not be considered as lawful temporary evacuation and would therefore amount to a forcible transfer of civilians in breach of international law,” Shamdasani said.

“Those who managed to comply with the Israeli authorities’ order to evacuate are now trapped in the south of the Gaza Strip, with scant shelter, fast-depleting food supplies, little or no access to clean water, sanitation, medicine and other basic needs,” she continued.

At least 3,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s siege of Gaza so far, including over 1,000 children, with 11,000 more people injured. Israeli forces are attacking Gazans at all angles, having dropped 6,000 bombs on the area, cutting off food, water, electricity, and humanitarian aid to the area, and using white phosphorus on Gazans, which poses an extreme burn risk and could represent a war crime.

Hospital workers have said that the evacuation order is impossible to comply with for many, including hospitals in northern Gaza. In Gaza City’s largest hospital, some hospital staff have resorted to drinking IV solution because of the lack of water, The Washington Post reported on Monday. Meanwhile, workers are gathering any remaining gas supplies from the area to ensure their generators can keep running to keep numerous patients, including babies in intensive care, alive.

Palestinian officials said on Tuesday that hospitals in Gaza are entering a stage of actual “collapse” with fuel running out and electricity still cut, while also facing dire drug and equipment shortages.

UN Relief and Works Agency warned on Tuesday that all hospitals in Gaza have only 24 hours of fuel reserve left. Some Israeli strikes appear to have targeted buildings surrounding a hospital near a southern border crossing in order to put the facility out of service and delay transfer of the wounded to the hospital.

Though Palestinians were ordered to flee to the south as Israel forces prepare a ground attack, senior program director of Medical Aid for Palestinians Mahmoud Shalbi told CNN that Israeli strikes have been concentrated in southern Gaza overnight on Monday. Many have been killed by strikes at evacuation sites.

Palestinian advocates have long been warning about Israel’s apartheid being in violation of international human rights law. But Israel has largely dodged culpability for its actions from world leaders even as it has flouted the law and openly prepared for the ethnic cleansing it is currently undertaking, as advocates have said.

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