Their humanitarian assessment opened with a minute of silence for all those who have lost their lives since the start of the conflict on October 7, and for the 240 Israeli men, women and children still held hostage by Hamas.
“What we have seen unfold over the last 26 days in Israel and the occupied territories is nothing short of what I would call a crisis. scourge on our collective conscience“, declared the UN humanitarian coordinator, Martin Griffiths, newly arrived in the region. “We are all involved in all of this in one way or another.”
Death and displacement
Mr. Griffiths recalled that 1,400 Israelis and nearly 9,000 Palestinians were killed, although the true number will not be known until the rubble in Gaza is cleared. The desolation reminds him of the first days of the Syrian war “when we saw cities like Homs razed”.
More than 1.5 million people are now displaced and nearly 600,000 people are crowded into shelters run by the United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, who lost 72 employees. He believes it is the greatest loss ever recorded by UN personnel in a conflict.
Not enough trucks
He told ambassadors that “intense humanitarian negotiations, day and night” between Israel, Egypt, the United States and the United Nations had produced results.
So far, 329 trucks carrying aid have entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which opened on October 21, and 100 of them made the journey on Thursday alone. However, he indicated that before the conflict, an average of 500 trucks were needed.
“These negotiations, as detailed and important as they are, do not do business. We are not following the progression towards desolation, which is the story of Gaza these days,” he said.
Mr. Griffiths reiterated the obligation to respect humanitarian law, to release all hostages unconditionally and to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, which also includes humanitarian workers and their facilities.
“Civilians remain entitled to protection whether they stay or move, and they have the right to choose. And anyone who does not evacuate should not automatically be considered supporting the adversary or the target of an attack,” he insisted.
He said essential supplies must also be allowed into Gaza, including humanitarian aid and fuel. In related news, Mr Griffiths said he had received information that more fuel would be delivered to the enclave.
“These negotiations must continue but they are not enough. We need to take these breaks,” he said, referring to the call for a humanitarian ceasefire. “If we do not pause, we will not be able to meet the needs of the people of Gaza and the Israelis also caught in these conflict zones. »
Braving airstrikes for bread
Meanwhile, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the region warned that the situation would only deteriorate if hostilities continued.
Lynn Hastings, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said: four UNRWA shelters housing nearly 20,000 displaced people were hit on Thursday. At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured.
She also spoke of the despair in Gaza, where backup generators essential to hospitals, water desalination plants and food production facilities are “shutting down one by one.”
The health system is also overwhelmed by severe shortages of supplies, water, electricity and staff. To date, 14 of 35 hospitals and 51 of 72 primary health centers have closed their doors. Only one of three water supply lines from Israel is operational.
“Access to food is becoming more and more of a concern. People are braving airstrikes to queue outside bakeries for bread, a number of which have already been closed due to lack of fuel,” she said.
While welcoming the agreement for the delivery of aid through the Rafah crossing, Hastings stressed the need to increase the pace, noting that recent deliveries did not include fuel. In addition, additional passages will be necessary.
She also highlighted the call for humanitarian ceasefires, saying they will “alleviate epic human suffering and make humanitarian access easier and safer.”
Next week, humanitarians will release an updated flash appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory. They estimate that $1.2 billion will be needed to meet the needs of the entire population of Gaza and 500,000 people in the West Bank until the end of the year.