In an unusual display of condemnation towards Israel, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced disapproval on Thursday over the country’s largest military operation in the past two decades, targeting a refugee camp in the West Bank. Guterres, visibly upset by the impact of the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp, said the operation led to over 100 civilian injuries, forced thousands to flee, damaged schools and hospitals, and disrupted essential utilities. His statement can be read in full at the UN website.

Civilian Impact in the Jenin Camp

Furthermore, Guterres criticized Israel’s prevention of the injured from receiving necessary medical care and the obstruction of humanitarian workers from accessing all those in need. “I strongly condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror,” Guterres told reporters. He confirmed this condemnation applied to any use of excessive force, specifically citing the situation involving Israeli forces.

Concerns About Israeli Tactics

The UN leader once again urged Israel “to abide by its obligations under international law,” to practice restraint, and to only employ proportional force. Guterres stressed the inconsistencies of using airstrikes in the context of law enforcement operations. Reminding Israel of its responsibilities as an occupying power, Guterres emphasized the duty to ensure civilian protection from all violent acts.

Crisis Escalates in Israeli-Palestinian Relations

This condemnation came after a statement by three independent UN human rights experts on Wednesday, who noted that 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.” These experts have called for Israel to be held accountable for its actions.

The two-day Israeli offensive, intended to suppress Palestinian militants, resulted in substantial damage to the Jenin camp’s infrastructure and forced thousands to flee their homes, killing 12 Palestinians. An Israeli soldier was also reported dead. The Israeli army claimed to have inflicted heavy damage on militant groups in the operation.

Guterres Advocates for De-escalation

Expressing his understanding of Israel’s security concerns, Guterres stated that “escalation is not the answer. It simply bolsters radicalization and leads to a deepening cycle of violence and bloodshed.” He urged the restoration of hope in the Palestinian people for a meaningful political process leading to a two-state solution, describing it as an essential contribution by Israel to its own security.