The UN voiced alarm on Tuesday at the civilian toll of Israel’s rescue of four hostages in Gaza, and the fact that Palestinian armed groups are holding captives there.

The United Nations rights office said that acts committed by both Israelis and Palestinians “may amount to war crimes.”

“We are profoundly shocked at the impact on civilians of the Israeli forces’ operation in An Nuseirat at the weekend to secure the release of four hostages,” spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters in Geneva.

The UN, he said, was also “deeply distressed that Palestinian armed groups continue to hold many hostages, most of them civilians.”

Israeli forces stormed Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday to rescue four Israeli hostages.

Almog Meir Jan, Noa Argamani, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv were kidnapped from the Nova festival in southern Israel on October 7.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said that at least 274 Palestinians were killed and 698 wounded during the operation.

“Hundreds of Palestinians, many of them civilians, were reportedly killed and injured,” Laurence said.

“The manner in which the raid was conducted, in such a densely populated area, seriously calls into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution – as set out under the laws of war – were respected by the Israeli forces.”

When asked about figures provided by the Gaza Health Ministry, he said that prior to October 7, when there was greater possibility to check, the UN had consistently found that “the numbers they provide us are… very close to being 100-percent accurate.”

Lives Put at ‘Added Risk’

When asked about hostages held in Gaza, Laurence said that this was also “prohibited by international law.”

“Furthermore, by holding hostages in such densely populated areas, the armed groups doing so are putting the lives of Palestinian civilians, as well as the hostages themselves, at added risk from the hostilities,” he stressed.

When asked about reports that hostages had been held in civilian locations, he said that it should not happen “to an extent they could be … used as human shields.”

Nina Larson, with AFP