Guterres warns deaths, displacement ripples Gaza ‘This must stop’


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 20th Nov. World Health Organization on Sunday said that it evacuated 31 babies in critical condition at the Al-Shifa Hospital and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a humanitarian ceasefire after the ongoing Israel-Palestine crisis.

UN agencies warned rising casualties, attacks on schools and shelters, including the death of UN worker, and crippling fuel shortages blocking aid deliveries rippled across Gaza over the weekend.

Top officials echoed that call to improve conditions for Gaza’s 2.3 million people, 1.7 million of which have been displaced since the 7 October Hamas attack in Israel resulted in the killing of 1,400 Israelis and capture of 240 hostages.

Over 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza.

Guterres said in a statement issued on Sunday that “This war is having a staggering and unacceptable number of civilian casualties, including women and children, every day,” “This must stop. I reiterate my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, said in a statement on Sunday that “The horrendous events of the past 48 hours in Gaza beggar belief.”

“The killing of so many people at schools turned shelters, hundreds fleeing for their lives from Al-Shifa Hospital amid continuing displacement of hundreds of thousands in southern Gaza are actions which fly in the face of the basic protections civilians must be afforded under international law,” Mr. Türk said.

He stressed that failing to adhere to these rules may constitute war crimes.

According to the UN agency for Palestine refugees latest situation report on Sunday, said 884,000 internally displaced persons are sheltering in 154 UNRWA installations across all five governorates of the Gaza Strip.

Just getting into one of the shelters makes you burst into tears,” an UNRWA employee said.

“Children looking for food and water and standing in queues for over six hours just to get a piece of bread or a bottle of water. People are literally sleeping on streets here in Khan Younis as thousands keep escaping from the north.”

UNRWA said that 2 schools sheltering displaced families were hit, causing “many deaths” and injuries, mostly of women and children, in addition to other deadly incidents across Gaza and the West Bank against the backdrop of soaring humanitarian needs.

Mr. Türk said three other schools hosting displaced Palestinians have also been attacked.

“This must stop,” he said. “Humanity must come first. A ceasefire – on humanitarian and human rights grounds – is desperately needed. Now.”

Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, said in a statement on Sunday that the attacks are “just cruel”.

“I watched with sheer horror reports from an attack on the Al-Fakhoura UNRWA school-turned-shelter in northern Gaza,” he said.

UNRWA said that classrooms sheltering displaced families were hit and at least 24 people were reported killed in the strike.

Mr. Lazzarini said up to 7,000 people were in the school at the time. UNRWA Al-Falah/Zeitoun school in Gaza City, ambulances could not reach the school, where 4,000 people were sheltering.

, Mr. Lazzarini said some 176 people sheltering in the agency’s schools were reported killed and 800 wounded during Israeli bombardments.

“The large number of UNRWA facilities hit and the number of civilians killed cannot just be ‘collateral damage’,” he said, adding that the UN agency routinely shares the buildings’ coordinates with parties to the conflict.

“This vicious war is reaching a point of no return when all rules are disrespected, in overt disregard for civilian lives,” he said.

He called and appealed “once again for humanity to prevail and for a humanitarian ceasefire right now.”

Israeli military operations have been inside and around Al-Shifa Hospital, with UN colleagues that visited the site on Saturday described it as a “death zone”.

On Sunday, WHO and humanitarian partners helped to evacuate infants in critical condition.

UNRWA head said that medical personnel, patients and civilians had fled the hospital over the weekend, ordered to do so by the Israeli military.

He added that hundreds were seen making their way south on foot, at great risk to their lives, health and safety.

WHO reported on Sunday that six Palestine Red Crescent ambulances transported the babies to Al-Helal Al-Emirati Maternity Hospital, where there are receiving urgent care.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a social media post on Sunday that Further missions are being planned to urgently transport remaining patients and health staff out of Al-Shifa Hospital.”

According to OHCHR, Israeli Defense Forces are dropping leaflets demanding residents go to unspecified “recognized shelters”, even as strikes take place across Gaza.

Mr. Türk said “Already displaced Palestinians, deprived by extreme restrictions on lifesaving assistance, are struggling to meet their basic needs, forced into ever-diminishing, overcrowded, unsanitary unsafe spaces,”.

“Irrespective of warnings, Israel is obliged to protect civilians wherever they are,” Turk stated.

“The pain, dread and fear etched on the faces of children, women and men is too much to bear. How much more violence, bloodshed and misery will it take before people come to their senses? How many more civilians will be killed?”

UN agencies said that needs are rising.

The entry of fuel critical for the overall humanitarian operations across the enclave has been largely banned.

Limited fuel deliveries began on Wednesday, and UNRWA has been informed that, as of Saturday, 120,000 litres of fuel will be delivered every two days going forward.

UN agencies have said this is not enough for all humanitarian activities, and that at least 200,000 litres per day are required to, among other things, power generators to provide electricity to hospitals and to operate water facilities. Both services have been cut since the start of the conflict.

UNRWA said that fuel is also critical for telecommunications networks.

It noted that Gaza’s 4th communications blackout on Friday meant the agency was unable to transport trucks of humanitarian assistance arriving via Egypt.

UNRWA report said that as of 10 November, over 11,078 people have been killed in the Gaza; two thirds are reportedly children and women, the UNRWA report said.

Due to the collapse in the Gaza’s Ministry of Health services and communications in the north, casualty data has not been updated for the last five days.

Media reports indicate the number of Palestinian deaths is 12,000.

According to the UN humanitarian agency Israel reported that 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals have been killed in Israel, the vast majority on 7 October,

On Saturday, one UNRWA colleague was killed in the northern area due to strikes.

Over 104 colleagues have been killed, the highest number of UN aid workers killed in a conflict in the Organization’s history, according to UN Palestine refugee agency.

According to UNRWA situation report, violent incidents, deaths and injuries struck several areas of the West Bank, including the Fara’a and Jenin refugee camps.

OCHA reported that 198 Palestinians, including 52 children, have been killed by Israeli security forces and eight, including one child, by Israeli settlers.

UNRWA added that in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus on Saturday, Israeli security forces launched an operation, entering with an armoured bulldozer and mobilizing a drone that fired missiles towards the Fatah office, killing five, injuring two others and damaging homes and shops.

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