Displaced Palestinians moving from the north to the south of the Gaza Strip. (WAFA Images)
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) warned that the resumption of the military operation and its expansion further in southern Gaza is repeating horrors from past weeks.
In a Monday statement, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said the number of civilians killed is rapidly increasing: “Civilians, including men, women, children, older persons, the sick and people with disabilities are the most to suffer”.
“Israeli forces’ bombardment is ongoing following another evacuation order to move people from Khan Younis into Rafah. The order created panic, fear and anxiety. At least an additional 60,000 people were forced to move to already overcrowded UNRWA shelters, with more asking to be sheltered,” said Lazzarini.
Many Gazans have already been displaced more than once fleeing the war in other parts of Gaza.
“The evacuation order pushes people to concentrate into what is less than one-third of the Gaza Strip. They need everything: food, water, shelter, and mostly safety. Roads to the south are clogged”, added Lazzarini.
The UN official further warned that “access to water is limited, as the Israeli operation has prevented access to the largest desalination plant in Gaza that previously provided drinking water for 350,000 people.”
At the same time, the largest hospital in southern Gaza with over 1,000 in-patients and sheltering 17,000 displaced people may cease to operate due to lack of supplies and insufficient personnel.
“Claims that the UN has thousands of tents and plans to open new refugee camps in Rafah are false”, he stressed. “We have said it repeatedly. We are saying it again. No place is safe in Gaza, whether in the south, or the southwest, whether in Rafah or in any unilaterally so-called ‘safe zone’.”
“The latest developments are further strangling the humanitarian operation, with limited supplies going in and complex logistical and coordination arrangements that slow down and at times obstruct the flow”, said Lazzarini. “The Israeli Authorities continue to restrict the flow of humanitarian supplies, including fuel, forcing the UN to only use the ill-equipped crossing point with Egypt.”
UNRWA called on Israel to reopen Kerem Abu Salem and other crossings and facilitate the unconditional, uninterrupted and meaningful delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance. The failure to do so violates international humanitarian law.
“The end of the humanitarian pause has already brought further suffering, loss and grief to civilians wherever they are. We call for a humanitarian ceasefire”, concluded UNRWA chief.
More than 1.8 million people, or 80 per cent of the total population of Gaza, have been forced to flee their homes. This is the largest displacement of the Palestinian people since 1948.
UNRWA is currently hosting more than 1.2 million people in shelters, including in the south. This is the largest displacement of the Palestinian people since 1948.
The nearly 70 already overcrowded UNRWA shelters in the south cannot take more people. UNRWA shelters in the south were already hosting around 600,000 people.