The United Nations human rights chief has asked Israel to grant his team access to Gaza to investigate competing allegations about Al-Shifa Hospital.
“We need to investigate this by having access. We cannot trust one party or the other when it comes to this,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk told CNN’s Becky Anderson when asked about the Israeli military’s accusations that Hamas was hiding weapons in the hospital.
He said the situation needs an “independent international investigation, because we have different narratives.”
Pressure on Israel: Israel is under increasing international pressure to uncover evidence of what it has described as a Hamas command and control center under Al-Shifa Hospital, as Israeli forces launched a raid on the facility on Wednesday morning. The Hamas-run government media office denied it was using the hospital as a command and control center, calling Israeli claims “baseless lies.”
Turkish He said hospitals had special protection under humanitarian law at all times.
“Civilians, especially hospitals, cannot be used for military purposes. But you can’t attack a hospital without clear evidence either,” Türk said.
Request for access to Gaza and the West Bank: Türk said investigators could not go to Gaza “while bombs are falling or while military operations are underway,” so his team was monitoring the situation from afar for now. He said that he had previously asked the Israeli government for access to Gaza and the Occupied West Bank but was “still waiting for the response.”
The actions of both Israel and Hamas since the militant group’s massacre of some 1,200 people on October 7 should be investigated, Türk said.
International humanitarian law in conflict: Since Hamas launched its brazen attacks on October 7 and Israel responded with intense airstrikes and a ground offensive, both sides have been accused of committing war crimes.
“We have seen…serious violations of international humanitarian law,” Türk said, speaking in general terms of the actions of both sides.
“What Hamas did (the horrible killing of civilians, the fact that they took hostages) are clear violations of the law. The fact that we have seen collective punishment by Israel of Gaza, cutting off supplies, medical needs, food, electricity and water, is also [a] very serious matter according to international humanitarian law,” said Türk.
“In fact, we consider it a crime, [just] since Hamas acted criminally by taking hostages and killing civilians. In fact, there are issues that we must all examine because they are very serious. And they require answers. And they demand responsibility,” Türk said.