UN condemns Israeli airstrike on World Central Kitchen, urges aid access into Gaza


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Jamie McGoldrick on Tuesday deplored the killing of 7 aid workers of the NGO World Central Kitchen by Israeli military airstrikes in central Gaza as he reiterated repeated concerns that “there is no safe space left in Gaza”.

This is not an isolated incident,” said Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“As of 20 March, at least 196 humanitarians had been killed in the OPT since October 2023. This is nearly three times the death toll recorded in any single conflict in a year.”

Mr. McGoldrick appealed to “all parties to the conflict, including the Government of Israel”, to respect international humanitarian law, which prohibits the targeting of humanitarian personnel.

“The role of aid workers is to alleviate the suffering of people in crisis. Their safety, along with that of the civilians they serve, must be guaranteed,” he said.

He made the comments after World Central Kitchen reported that an Israeli airstrike was responsible for the deaths of its aid workers in Deir Al-Balah.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths expressed his outrage at the attack and described the victims are “heroes, killed while trying to feed starving people”.

According to news reports and images of the NGO vehicle showed a large hole in its roof.

WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris said that the NGO mission had been agreed with the Israeli authorities ahead of time and that the car was “well marked, it was very clear: it was World Central Kitchen”.

WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a tweet said  How many more lives will be lost until there is a ceasefire?”

He said WHO was outraged by the killing of humanitarian workers, and safety must be a basic requirement for all who do relief work.

UNRWA tweeted that it was devastated by the killing of seven humanitarians, pointed out that 176 of its own workers have been killed since the violence erupted on 7 October

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the killing of the aid workers by an Israeli strike was unintended and tragic in a video statement released by the PM office.

World Central Kitchen released a statement stated that its convoy had been hit “despite coordinating movements” with the Israel military, after the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of food aid at its Deir-al-Balah warehouse brought to Gaza along its newly devised maritime route.

On the destruction of Al-Shifa Hospital after a two-week siege by the Israeli military, Dr. Harris said that it had “ripped the heart out of healthcare” in the enclave.

In a assessment of the closure of 750-bed Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, WHO maintained that aid teams had been waiting for “days and days” for Israeli permission to reach the stricken facility, where staff and patients endured “horrific levels of violence”.

“We’ve had contact with the staff; the (hospital) directors told us that Al-Shifa has gone, it’s no longer able to function in any way, shape or form” as a medical centre, said Dr. Harris.

Dr. Harris said that the facility was now “in ruins” and that at least 21 patients had died during the Israeli Defense Forces siege.

WHO spokesperson sais that as the situation deteriorated at Al-Shifa, medical staff had to move patients to an office space within the hospital grounds without toilets and where there was no water or food; “they were sharing one bottle of water between 15 people by the end.”

She noted that medical staff “had no means of looking after patients, many of whom were severely injured (or) intensive care-level patients” fitted with urinary catheters but lacking urinary bags. “You can imagine the horror that has been going on,” Dr. Harris said.

If permission is granted on Tuesday to reach Al-Shifa and northern Gaza’s last few remaining health facilities, priorities for WHO teams include bringing medicines, fuel and food and assessing what other supplies are needed and how to provide relief to the most severely injured and sick.

“We’ve been trying to go for days and days and days, and most of our missions have been rejected,” Dr. Harris said.

“We’re not going to be able to provide the things that, say, a functioning hospital needs, but first of all, we need to do an assessment to understand what we can do. Secondly…who needs to be evacuated…where can they go and what can we do to save the lives of those patients (who are) remaining.”

She noted that hundreds of healthcare workers have been killed “doing their job”, along with 32,000 of civilians, 70 per cent of whom are women and children in the Israeli bombardment.

“We are struggling to understand the mortality numbers beyond the numbers that are reported of people who are killed in the bombardment because many people don’t even get to hospital,” Dr. Harris said.

UN health agency team intends to visit Kamal Adwan Hospital in Gaza City where there are already dire concerns about the growing number of babies being born too underweight to survive.

Dr. Harris insisted in a renewed call for a ceasefire that the facility is admitting at least 15 malnourished children per day, and the needs are “getting ever more severe”,

“It’s got to be taken seriously – the ceasefire, the UN resolution – the world has agreed a ceasefire must happen. It should have happened months ago, but it must happen now.”

She stressed that help for the malnourished youngsters who are at the “highest risk of imminent death if not urgently treated” is available at two WHO-partnered specialised nutrition centres in Rafah and another in Kamal Adwan.

WHO reported that Gazans were self-sufficient in food production and only 0.8 per cent of children under the age of five were acutely malnourished. In the northern governorates today, that figure is between 12.4 and 16.5 per cent.

“Different doctors particularly in the maternity hospitals are reporting that they’re seeing a big rise in children born [with] low birth weight and just not surviving the neonatal period because they are born too small,” Dr. Harris concluded.

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