Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Deif’s Assassination Attempt in Gaza Took Weeks of Close Surveillance

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in a site hit by an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in a site hit by an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
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Deif’s Assassination Attempt in Gaza Took Weeks of Close Surveillance

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in a site hit by an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors in a site hit by an Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

For weeks, Israel kept watch on a palm-tree-dotted villa in southern Gaza where it believed a top Hamas lieutenant was staying with his family, but it held off on a strike, according to three senior Israeli defense officials.

The Israelis had a bigger target in mind: Muhammad Deif, the elusive leader of Hamas’s military wing, according to a report published by The New York Times on Monday.

The officials said that on Saturday, after learning that Deif appeared to be at the villa, the Israeli government sent in fighter jets that devastated the compound and killed dozens of Palestinians in the area around it.

The Israeli army and the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, said on Sunday that the strike had killed the lieutenant, Rafa Salameh.

But the fate of Deif, who is second in command of Hamas and considered an architect of its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, remained unclear.

The Israeli government also defended the decision to order the strike — which the officials said used at least five US-made precision-guided bombs — in an area Israel itself has designated a humanitarian zone for Palestinians driven from their homes by the war between Israel and Hamas.

The strike was authorized after prolonged observation of the villa, one of Salameh’s secret command posts, according to the three senior Israeli officials.

The villa is in an area known as Al-Mawasi, west of Khan Younis near the Mediterranean Sea.

It belonged to Salameh’s family, two of the officials said, and Salameh began spending more time there in recent months after Israeli forces overran many of his other strongholds in Khan Younis, both above and below ground, according to two of the officials.

Salameh still spent much of his time in Hamas’s underground tunnel network, but he also stayed regularly at the villa, along with his family and other militants, to escape the stifling conditions in the tunnels, the officials said.

Officers from an Israeli unit that oversees the identification of high-value targets, staffed by operatives from military intelligence and the Shin Bet, detected Salameh’s presence several weeks ago, the officials said.

But, they added, Israeli leaders decided to delay any attempts to kill him to see if he would be joined at some point by Deif.

Earlier assassination attempts against Deif are believed to have left him disabled, and he may be missing an eye and limbs. The Israeli military believes that he has developed health problems that force him to spend more time than other Hamas leaders do above ground, outside the tunnel network, the officials said.

On Friday, Israeli intelligence officers received information suggesting that Deif had appeared at the villa, the officials said. The news was sent up the chain of command to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who signed off on the strike, he said.

When the military received further indications of Deif’s presence after 10 a.m. on Saturday, it sent in the jets. It also launched an additional airstrike near emergency responders, videos and photographs reviewed by The New York Times show.

At least 90 people were killed, about half of them women and children, and 300 were wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Reports from the Gaza Strip described hospitals overwhelmed by injured Palestinians.

A Hamas official suggested on Sunday that Deif remained very much alive.

Netanyahu himself, in a televised news conference on Saturday night, said there was still no “absolute certainty” that Deif had been killed.