The United Nations’ human rights commission of inquiry says it is investigating “war crimes committed by all sides” of the rapidly escalating violence in Israel and Gaza following Saturday’s surprise attack by Hamas militants, which has ignited fears of a bigger regional escalation.
Tuesday’s announcement from the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel, came shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden reaffirmed America’s unequivocal support for Israel to defend itself and condemned the attack as an act of “pure, unadulterated evil” — solidifying Western unity as Israel’s government vows a “complete siege” of Gaza.
Israel’s military said Tuesday it had regained effective control over its south and the border with Gaza, four days after Hamas fighters stormed into the country and brought gun battles to Israel’s streets in the deadliest attack in decades. Over 1,900 people have been killed in the region since the violence began.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the country was “at war” over the weekend, and foreign governments are trying to determine how many of their citizens are dead, missing or in need of medical help or flights home.
Here is what you need to know this Tuesday.
'War crimes' investigation
The U.N. Human Rights Commissioner said the independent commission of inquiry has been collecting and preserving evidence of “war crimes” committed by both Hamas and Israeli forces since Saturday’s attack by Hamas.
“There is already clear evidence that war crimes may have been committed” in the days since the assault, the office said in a statement.
“Reports that armed groups from Gaza have gunned down hundreds of unarmed civilians are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated. Taking civilian hostages and using civilians as human shields are war crimes.
“The Commission is gravely concerned with Israel’s latest attack on Gaza and Israel’s announcement of a complete siege on Gaza involving the withholding of water, food, electricity and fuel which will undoubtfully (sic) cost civilian lives and constitutes collective punishment,” the office added.
The agency said it was “deeply distressed by the mounting violence” and urged authorities on both sides of the conflict to ensure the safe evacuation of civilians and the release of hostages.
Second Canadian killed in Israel
A second Canadian man was confirmed Tuesday as having died in the Hamas attack.
News of the death of Ben Mizrachi, from British Columbia, came Tuesday from a source close to the family, as well as social media posts from family members and his former high school.
Alexandre Look, a Montrealer who was attending a dance festival in an Israeli town near the Gaza border, is also confirmed to have died. Three other Canadians are believed to be missing, Global Affairs Canada said in an updated statement late Tuesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the many world leaders who condemned Hamas — a listed terrorist organization in Canada, the U.S. and Europe — for carrying out the attack.
At an Israeli solidarity rally in Ottawa on Monday night, Trudeau reiterated his government’s support for Israel during the conflict.
He spoke after demonstrations that played out over the Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada in support of Palestinians raised concerns from premiers, mayors and law enforcement about how to handle any demonstrations of support for Hamas.
“Let me be very clear. Hamas terrorists aren’t a resistance. They’re not freedom fighters,” Trudeau said.
“They are terrorists, and no one in Canada should be supporting them, much less celebrating them.”
Attack an act of ‘sheer evil’: Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden called the Hamas attack an act of “sheer evil” Tuesday afternoon.
“There are moments in this life, literally, when the pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world,” he told reporters at the White House. He said at least 14 Americans have died.
“This was an act of sheer evil.”
Biden confirmed at least 14 Americans are among those killed in Israel, up from the number reported earlier in the day. Officials say that death toll is likely to keep rising.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan later told reporters that 20 or more U.S. citizens are unaccounted for, an untold number of whom have likely been taken as hostages by Hamas militants.
Sullivan said the U.S. does not know precisely how many citizens are being held hostage, or their conditions.
Washington is delivering munitions and military equipment to Israel, and the Pentagon is reviewing inventories to see what else can be sent quickly, a senior Defense Department official said Monday. The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive shipments.
Biden said the U.S. was sending ammunition and interceptors to replenish Israel’s air defence system, Iron Dome. Sullivan said some of those interceptors were already on the ground in local stockpiles, with more being sent to Israel quickly.
The U.S. on Sunday afternoon began moving the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group into the eastern Mediterranean “to bolster regional deterrence efforts” as fears grow of a broader spread of violence.
Included in the U.S. strike group moving into the eastern Mediterranean are the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the guided missile cruiser USS Normandy and guided missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney and USS Roosevelt.
“We’re going to continue to stand united, supporting the people of Israel who are suffering unspeakable losses and opposing the hatred and violence of terrorism,” Biden said.
The State Department announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel in the coming days to Israel to deliver a message of solidarity and support.
Biden added an apparent warning to Hezbollah and Iran, saying, “To any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of the situation, I have one word: Don’t.”
Sullivan said there is no intelligence that directly links Iran to Saturday’s attack, but accused the Iranian regime of being “complicit in this attack in a broad sense” through its longstanding military and financial support of Hamas.
Death toll rises
Roughly 1,000 Israelis have died after the Hamas attack, Israeli embassy officials in the United States said on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday.
In Gaza and the West Bank, 900 people have been killed, including 260 children and 230 women, according to authorities there. Thousands have been wounded on both sides.
Israel expanded its mobilization of military reservists to 360,000 on Tuesday, according to the country’s media. The military said it struck hundreds of Hamas targets overnight in Gaza.
Tens of thousands of residents fled their homes as airstrikes levelled buildings, including in Gaza City’s residential and commercial district of Rimal.
Israel’s defence forces said on X that aircraft had hit military targets, including weapons storage and manufacturing sites, and in a statement on Tuesday said Israeli airstrikes had killed two senior Hamas officials.
U.N. human rights chief Volker Turk said Tuesday that Israel’s strikes hit residential buildings and schools across Gaza. They also hit the “premises of the UN relief and works agency, UNRWA (UN Palestinian refugee agency),” a UN rights office statement said, adding that civilians were among the dead and injured.
Hamas, which Israel says kidnapped more than 150 people during its weekend raid, has warned it will kill one of the hostages every time Israel’s military bombs civilian targets in Gaza without warning.
Turk also condemned “horrifying mass killings by members of Palestinian armed groups” and said the militants’ abduction of hostages was also forbidden under international law.
On Monday, Israel announced a “complete siege” on Gaza, halting deliveries of food, fuel, water, medicines, electricity and other supplies.
Turk also said Israel’s “imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law.”
More than 200,000 people have fled their homes in Gaza, a UN humanitarian office spokesperson said Tuesday.
It remained unclear where those Palestinians are supposed to go, with the White House declining to provide specifics on where safe evacuation routes are being provided.
— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters