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UN expert says attacks on civilian targets must be proportionate


The Israeli attack on a school in the Gaza Strip to eliminate Hamas fighters has sparked fierce criticism and a heated international debate.

A spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office told Geneva on Friday that international humanitarian law “prohibits the launching of attacks where the expected incidental loss of civilian lives, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, would be excessive in relation to the human rights. to the concrete and direct military advantage that this specific attack is expected to deliver.”

Parties to the conflict must take all precautions to prevent or minimize loss of life among the civilian population, injuries to civilians and damage to civilian objects, the UN spokesperson said.

This includes providing advance warning when possible, and suspending an attack if it becomes clear that it no longer respects the principles of necessity, distinction and proportionality, he said.

Dozens of civilians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a U.N. Agency for Palestine Refugee (UNRWA) school in central Gaza, Palestinian medics and the militant Hamas group said on Thursday, a claim Israel denied.

Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health authority said at least 30 people were killed in the attack on Wednesday evening and most of the victims were women and children. Hamas said 40 people were killed.

What exactly is proportionate is not defined in the provisions of international law, and what would no longer be proportionate can only be determined by courts taking all aspects into account. The same applies to war crimes or crimes against humanity, where only courts can make final decisions.

Palestinians inspect the damage after an Israeli airstrike on a school for displaced persons of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the center of the Gaza Strip. Omar Naaman/dpa

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