U.N. chief issues a rare condemnation of Israel’s excessive force in Jenin raid

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In a rare condemnation of Israel, the United Nations chief on Thursday denounced the country’s excessive use of force in its largest military operation in two decades targeting a refugee camp in the West Bank.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, clearly angered by Israel’s attack on the Jenin refugee camp, said it had left more than 100 civilians injured, forced thousands to flee, damaged schools and hospitals and disrupted water and electricity networks.

He also criticized Israel for preventing the injured from getting medical care and keeping humanitarian workers from reaching everyone in need.


“I strongly condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror,” Guterres told reporters.

Asked whether this condemnation applied to Israel, he replied: “It applies to all use of excessive force, and obviously in this situation, there was an excessive force used by Israeli forces.”

Israeli drones struck targets in a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank in a military operation that killed at least eight Palestinians.

July 3, 2023

Israel’s two-day offensive, which it said was to crack down on militants, also killed 12 Palestinians and destroyed the Jenin camp’s narrow roads and alleyways. One Israeli soldier also was killed.

The U.N. chief again called on Israel “to abide by its obligations under international law,” and to exercise restraint and use only proportional force.

“The use of airstrikes is inconsistent with the conduct of law enforcement operations,” he stressed.

Guterres reminded Israel that “as the occupying power, it has a responsibility to ensure that the civilian population is protected against all acts of violence.”


The secretary-general’s condemnation followed a statement by three U.N. independent human rights experts on Wednesday that said the Israeli airstrikes and ground actions “amount to egregious violations of international law and standards on the use of force and may constitute a war crime.”

The experts on human rights in the Palestinian territory, on the rights of the internally displaced and on violence against women and girls called for Israel to be held accountable for its illegal occupation and its violent acts to perpetuate it.

A Palestinian man careened his car into pedestrians in Tel Aviv, wounding eight. Hours later, the Israeli military began withdrawing troops from a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank.

July 4, 2023

The Israeli army claimed to have inflicted heavy damage on militant groups in the attack on the camp, which ended Wednesday.

Ahead of Israel’s withdrawal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to carry out more such operations if needed.

The attack followed more than a year of increased Israeli-Palestinian violence. The Jenin camp and an adjacent town of the same name have been a flashpoint since the violence began escalating in spring 2022.

Israel has withdrawn its troops from a militant stronghold in the West Bank but warned that similar missions would take place in the future.

July 5, 2023

The offensive also further weakened the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s erstwhile partner in battling militants, which already had little control in the camp.


Guterres said he understood Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

“But escalation is not the answer,” he said. “It simply bolsters radicalization and leads to a deepening cycle of violence and bloodshed.”

The secretary-general emphasized that “restoring the hope of the Palestinian people in a meaningful political process, leading to a two-state solution and the end of the occupation, is an essential contribution by Israel to its own security.”

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians have sought those territories for an independent state — a goal supported by the United Nations and many countries around the world.