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Testimonies from the Occupied Palestinian Territory show new depths of Israel’s atrocities: UN expert

CAIRO (25 April 2024) – The Occupied Palestinian Territory is enveloped in a spiral of unstoppable violence, with stories Palestinians and other witnesses relay adding new depths to atrocities the world has witnessed since the beginning of Israel’s assault on Gaza over six months ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Francesca Albanese said today.

“The pace and intensity with which this violence has spread to the rest of the occupied territory confirms that no Palestinian is safe under Israel’s unfettered control,” Albanese said, concluding a visit to Egypt and Jordan.

The Special Rapporteur said Israel had once again arbitrarily denied her access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, compelling her to report on the situation of Palestinians under occupation from neighbouring states.

Albanese said her visit demonstrated that the situation in Gaza is worse than previously assessed, with serious and multi-layered long-term implications. Most victims she met had endured catastrophic injuries, witnessed family members killed and experienced the effects of Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s health infrastructure, even after 26 January 2024, when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a ruling ordering Israel to prevent genocide in Gaza.

Patients that previously arrived in Egypt primarily with explosive and war injury-related symptoms are now joined by patients with chronic diseases and/or malnutrition, especially children, arising from Israel’s intentional humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

“Photos from a mere eight months ago show a chubby-cheeked 8-year-old Hamid, now rake thin and spending his days in excruciating pain due to pancreatitis developed through the harsh conditions of the siege,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Ms. Francesca Albanese

“Those who have left Gaza come out fractured and wracked by ‘survivors’ guilt’ and severe trauma,” Albanese said. “Just 50 kilometers away from the Gaza Strip, crucial, life-sustaining aid and goods, including water desalination equipment, first aid kits, oxygen cylinders and portable toilets – paid for by taxpayers across the world – languish in warehouses, barred entry into Gaza on the pretext of use by combatants.”

“Humanitarian measures implemented so far – airdrops and maritime corridors – are a mere palliative for what is desperately needed and legally due,” the expert said. “These measures are grossly inadequate to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe that Israel’s assault has created.”

“At this point, Israel has reneged on its international obligations to a degree that warrants a call for sanctions,” Albanese said.

The Special Rapporteur said her visit only confirmed how critical the UN Relief and Works Agency’s mandate is to Palestinians and people across the region as Palestinians once more flee to safety.

“Surrounding countries cannot alone absorb the impact of Israel’s pernicious practices of killing and displacement from Gaza,” Albanese said, calling for the supply chain of support to be mainstreamed through the UN Humanitarian Coordinator. “This will alleviate responsibility for Egypt and the Egyptian people,” she said.

Albanese reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire, an end to Israel’s illegal control of Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and a protective presence to ensure peace and stability in the region.

“It is critically important that the UN assumes full responsibility of humanitarian operations in accordance with Security Council resolution 2720,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“The horrors that people have seen in Gaza are unspeakable,” Albanese said. “But this visit also confirms that attention on the worsening situation in the West Bank including East Jerusalem has lapsed.” Increased restrictions and abuses, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings by Israeli soldiers and armed settlers alike are widely reported.

“Israeli policies spanning the occupied Palestinian territory are unquestionably endangering Palestinian existence on their land,” she said. “The focus of the international community must zero-in on the most likely implication – the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – and States must do everything in their power to prevent it.”

Albanese said she had undertaken the devastating experience of meeting with Palestinians from Gaza and recording their testimonies, trusting that UN member states will act to end the slaughter and ensure accountability.

“States must insist on an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and impose sanctions on Israel to avoid further calamity,” the Special Rapporteur said.

A full report is to follow.

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