A European envoy denounced Israel over the “proportionality” of the force it uses as international envoys toured the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank following a deadly raid.
His remarks echoed UN chief Antonio Guterres who on Thursday told reporters “there was an excessive force used by Israeli forces” in its 48-hour operation, the largest Israel has staged in the occupied Palestinian territory for years.
It included air raids and armoured bulldozers ripping up streets.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly referred to the refugee camp as a “terrorist nest” because of the presence of Palestinian armed fighters.
European Union representative to the Palestinian territories Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff made his comments as he led a delegation of UN officials and diplomats from 25 countries to the camp in the northern occupied West Bank.
“We are concerned about the deployment of weaponry and weapons systems which question the proportionality of the military during the operation,” Kuehn von Burgsdorff said of the operation, in which 12 Palestinians – including five children – were killed.
‘Violation of international law’
More than 140 others were wounded and 30 are in serious condition, according to the Palestinian health ministry. One Israeli soldier was killed during the raid.
“The military assault on Jenin was painful. What happened is a violation of international law,” von Burgsdorff said.
“This cycle of violence has to end, it cannot continue. If there is no political solution to the conflict, we are going to stand here in a week’s time, in a month’s time, in a year’s time, with nothing changed.”
As the delegation toured the camp, residents peered out of holes left in the walls by Israeli rockets, and local authorities tested a new camp-wide alarm system to warn of future raids.
Last Wednesday, three independent human rights experts said the Israeli air attacks and ground actions in Jenin “amount to egregious violations of international law and standards on the use of force and may constitute a war crime”.
UN plea for funds
Jenin camp has been the site of several large-scale raids by the Israeli military this year, but this week’s was the biggest such operation in the occupied West Bank since the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, of the early 2000s.
The camp’s infrastructure was severely damaged during the raid.
At least eight kilometres (five miles) of water pipes and three kilometres (1.2 miles) of sewage pipes were destroyed, the UN said. More than 100 houses were damaged and a number of schools were also lightly damaged.
The refugee camp is one of the poorest and most densely populated in the occupied West Bank, with some 18,000 people living in just 0.43 square kilometres.
UN officials on Saturday made a plea for funds to help rebuild the camp.
“To restore services and scale up support to the children, we need cash … our appeal is desperately underfunded,” said Leni Stenseth, deputy commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
“I would urge you to consider announcing your support for the work we are going to do here in Jenin camp in the coming weeks and months as soon as possible.”
On Thursday, Algeria announced $30m to “help rebuild the Palestinian city of Jenin after the barbaric and criminal attack” by Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, which normalised ties with Israel in 2020, said on Wednesday it will provide $15m.