UN urges greater aid access for Gaza, ‘intensification of mediation efforts’ to end Israel-Palestine violence

Israeli strikes have destroyed buildings and infrastructure in  Gaza.
UNOCHA/Samar Elouf
Israeli strikes have destroyed buildings and infrastructure in Gaza.
  • UN News

Rosemary DiCarlo was addressing a meeting of the UN Forum on the Question of Palestine, and noted that the UN has been “actively involved” in mediation so far, and said the fighting involving extremist group Hamas and Israeli forces, which has claimed the lives of more than 200 civilians on both sides, including children, was a “tragic reminder” of the need to find a resolution to end conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, “once and for all.”

“In the absence of such a process, we are – regrettably – bound to witness more episodes of tensions and desperation. People on both sides deserve much more than that”, said Ms. DiCarlo.

She noted that the scenes of communal violence inside Israel itself, were also “unprecedented”, saying continued escalation there would have “devastating consequences” for all in the region.

If the nine days of spiralling violence so far continues, “humanitarian needs are bound to rise considerably, particularly in Gaza, where the situation was already desperate”, she added.

Casualties rising

More than 220 people have now died in Gaza and the West Bank since violence erupted last week with Israel, where the toll has risen to 10 dead, UN humanitarians said earlier on Tuesday, in a call for greater access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and an end to hostilities.

“Up until noon yesterday, in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian fatalities stood at 200 at that point. In the West Bank, Palestinian fatalities stood at 20”, said Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at a briefing in Geneva.

“There are combined in the West Bank and Gaza Strip more than 6,000 injured. In Israel, the casualty count tragically as well, as of yesterday, stood at 10 total deaths and nearly 800 injured…due to Palestinian rocket attacks from highly populated civilian neighbourhoods into civilian populations centres in Israel.”

Nearly 60,000 people have also had to leave or flee their homes in Gaza, the OCHA spokesperson said, with 47,000 now sheltering in UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) schools. 

The development comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) also warned on Tuesday that the crisis has pushed an estimated additional 160,000 people in Gaza into food insecurity.

Houses wrecked

As of Monday, 132 buildings including 621 housing and commercial units have been destroyed in Gaza, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. An additional 316 housing units have been severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable, Mr. Laerke noted.

Health care professionals and medical facilities are also in danger, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“In the Gaza Strip, 19 health facilities have been damaged including destruction of the Hala Al-Shawa primary healthcare clinic”, said WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris.

“In the West Bank, 41 health workers have been injured and 21 health vehicles damaged. The severe damage to the roads and infrastructure makes access to many of the hospitals very, very difficult.” 

Medicine shortages

Dr. Harris added that there was also a drastic lack of medicines and materials in the Gaza Strip, with less than one month’s supply, while physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 transmission was “almost impossible”, amid ongoing destruction.

In addition, concerns have continued to mount over the deteriorating situation for Gaza residents, where power is only available for six to eight hours per day, owing to damaged feeder lines and networks.

This has disrupted the provision of healthcare and other basic services, including water, hygiene, and sanitation.

Crossing opening welcomed

Against this backdrop, OCHA welcomed the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza for essential humanitarian supplies nine days into the crisis.

The transit point in southern Gaza was closed eight days ago, along with the Erez crossing in the north of Gaza, OCHA said in a statement on Monday.

“We very much welcome the Israeli authorities’ opening of Kerem Shalom crossing for essential humanitarian supplies, nine days into the crisis. It is critical that the Erez crossing is also opened for the entry and exit of critical humanitarian staff,” said Mr. Laerke.

“In days to come, humanitarian access into and out of Gaza for staff and goods must be sustained and appropriate measures taken to ensure safe movements within Gaza,” the OCHA spokesperson added.

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