Israeli officials have already ordered an estimated 1.1 million people living in north Gaza to leave their homes and move south ahead of an expected ground invasion by their forces massed at the border.
The IDF has since entered Gaza to carry out limited operations in search of more than 100 civilians and soldiers captured by Hamas during the brutal and unexpected 7 October attacks, which killed more than 1,300.
Now Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory, has warned that Palestinians may be facing another “Nakba”, or forced expulsion from their land.
The Nakba — or “catastrophe” in Arabic — refers to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the territory during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
“There is a grave danger that what we are witnessing may be a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, and the 1967 Naksa, yet on a larger scale. The international community must do everything to stop this from happening again,” said Ms Albanese in a statement on Saturday.
And she added: “Israel has already carried out mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under the fog of war.
“Again, in the name of self-defence, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing.”
At least 1,300 people were killed in the Hamas terror attacks on 7 October, including 260 people at a music festival near kibbutz Re’im.
More than 2,000 people have been killed in Hamas-controlled Gaza since Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes, the Palestinian health ministry said on Saturday.
The Israeli Defense Force told The Independent that Ms Albanese’s claims of “ethnic cleansing” are “absurd.”
“On October 7th, Hamas initiated a cruel and brutal terror attack on Israel, resulting in the deaths of over 1,200 Israelis, including women, children, and elderly. The claim that Israel is planning an ethnic cleansing is absurd and far from the reality on the ground. The IDF is targeting Hamas in a campaign against terrorism, and is targeting Hamas militants, capabilities, and military infrastructures,” the IDF said in a statement.
Following the Hamas attacks, Israel announced a “complete siege” on the enclave, with electricity, water and medical supplies now in desperately short supply.
And on Saturday Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told troops in southern Israel that “The next stage is coming”
Meanwhile, Director of Communications at UNRWA, Juliette Touma, says that 1 million people have already been displaced following the Israeli air strikes.
Ms Albanese, an Italian human rights lawyer and academic, in her statement, claimed that “continued military operations by Israel have gone well beyond the limits of international law” and urged the international community to mediate a ceasefire.
“The international community must stop these egregious violations of international law now, before tragic history is repeated. Time is of the essence. Palestinians and Israelis both deserve to live in peace, equality of rights, dignity and freedom,” Ms Albanese said.
And she added: “The international community has the responsibility to prevent and protect populations from atrocity crimes. Accountability for international crimes committed by Israeli occupation forces and Hamas must also be immediately pursued.”
Special Rapporteurs are supposed to be independent experts who produce reports for UN member states. Ms Albanese became the first woman to hold the position upon her appointment in May 2022.
The IDF did not respond to a request for comment.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies