By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL- U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk who has called for an immediate ceasefire, is on a five-day visit to the Middle East. The human rights chief, speaking to the press said that both Hamas and Israel have committed war crimes, speaking of Gaza as “the gates to a living nightmare.” Türk added: “Human rights violations are at the root of this escalation and human rights play a central role in finding a way out of this vortex of pain. “The U.N.’s human rights office in a statement on Tuesday said: Türk, today begins a five-day visit to the Middle East region, amid Israel’s escalation in Gaza, in response to the attacks on it on 7 and 8 October, and the wider context of 56 years of occupation of the Palestinian territories.” Türk, who met the press at Rafah Crossing on November 8 explained that people in Gaza “have been suffocating, under persistent bombardment, mourning their families, struggling for water, for food, for electricity and fuel.”
Türk’s primary focus on this trip is to discuss human rights with government officials, civil society, victims and U.N. colleagues, his office said in a statement. Türk who was in Cairo on Tuesday is in Rafah on Wednesday and will be in Jordan on Thursday. The rights chief has requested access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As Turk reiterated: “It has been one full month of carnage, of incessant suffering, bloodshed, destruction, outrage and despair.” At the Rafah Border on Wednesday, Turk told the press that the Rafah border crossing is a “lifeline” for the 2.3 million Gaza residents but remains “unjustly, outrageously thin.” Despite a flurry of diplomatic visits by U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. President Joe Biden, very little progress was made on negotiating with Israel to allow more aid into Gaza and to commit to a humanitarian ceasefire. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has said he refuses to back down on his demands unless all hostages are released.
As bloodshed rages on in Gaza, Turk is determined to get something accomplished in the region on this trip. As he openly shared with members of the press at the Rafah crossing on Wednesday: “My colleagues are among those trapped, and among those who have lost family members, suffering sleepless nights filled with agony, anguish and despair. Gaza has already been described as the world’s biggest open-air prison before 7 October, under a 56-year occupation and a 16-year blockade by Israel. The atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups on 7 October were heinous, brutal and shocking, they were war crimes – as is the continued holding of hostages. The collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians. The massive bombardments by Israel have killed, maimed and injured in particular, women and children. The latest death toll from the Gaza Ministry of Health is in excess of 10,500 people, including over 4,300 children and 2,800 women. All of this has an unbearable toll on civilians. We have fallen off a precipice. This cannot continue.”