‘We are on the verge of abyss in the Middle East,’ says UN chief as Palestinians keep fleeing to Gaza’s southern areas
Palestinians kept fleeing to Gaza’s southern areas as heavy Israeli bombardments continued from the air, sea and land, with the UN chief making humanitarian appeals to both Hamas and the Israelis, the United Nations said on Monday.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said that civilians continue to flee to Gaza’s southern areas following the Israeli authorities’ warning to evacuate northern areas.
In a statement, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres also made humanitarian appeals to both Hamas and the Israelis as one million people in Gaza, half of its population, have been displaced.
“In this dramatic moment, as we are on the verge of the abyss in the Middle East, it is my duty as Secretary-General of the United Nations to make two strong humanitarian appeals,” said Guterres.
“To Hamas, the hostages must be immediately released without conditions. To Israel, rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid must be granted for humanitarian supplies and workers for the sake of the civilians in Gaza.”
UNWRA said the number of killed is increasing, and there are not enough body bags for the dead in Gaza.
Still, UNRWA said it continues to advocate for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians to be respected.
The UN agency said that 14 of its staff members have been killed.
“These are confirmed reports, but the number is likely higher,” said UNWRA.
The agency has 23 confirmed reports of UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip that have been impacted due to airstrikes, but the total number is likely higher.
Of the one million people displaced in Gaza, some 600,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are in the Middle Area, Khan Yunis and Rafah, with nearly 400,000 taking shelter in UNRWA facilities, it added.
The agency said it does not have the capacity “to assist in any meaningful way, including with space in our shelters, food, water or psychological support.”
“Despite the Israeli forces’ evacuation order, an unknown number of IDPs remain in UNRWA schools in the North,” said the UN agency.
People across Gaza have severely limited access to clean drinking water, says the UN
People consume brackish water from agricultural wells as a last resort, triggering serious concerns over the spread of waterborne diseases.
Ten days into the conflict with Palestinian group Hamas, Israeli bombardment and blockade of the Gaza Strip has continued, with over 1 million people – almost half the total population of Gaza – having been displaced.
Gaza is experiencing a dire humanitarian crisis with no electricity, while water, food, fuel and medical supplies are running out, as civilians flee to the south following Israeli warning to evacuate northern areas.
The fighting began when Hamas on Oct. 7 initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a multi-pronged surprise attack including a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel via land, sea, and air. It said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and increased settler violence.
The Israeli military then launched Operation Swords of Iron against Hamas targets within the Gaza Strip.
The number of Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza has risen to 2,750, including 750 children.
In Israel, 1,300 have been killed.