By UN News
Spikes in casualties, attacks on schools and shelters, including the death of a UN worker, and crippling fuel shortages blocking aid deliveries rippled across Gaza over the weekend, as the World Health Organization (WHO) helped to evacuate 31 babies in critical condition at the besieged Al-Shifa Hospital and the UN chief called for a humanitarian ceasefire amid the ongoing Israel-Palestine crisis.
Top UN 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 1,200 Israelis and capture of 240 hostages. Since then, more than 11,000 people have been killed in besieged Gaza.
“This war is having a staggering and unacceptable number of civilian casualties, including women and children, every day,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement on Sunday. “This must stop. I reiterate my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”
Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 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, stressing that failing to adhere to these rules may constitute war crimes.
According to the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), which issued its latest situation report on Sunday, nearly 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.”
Attacks on schools, shelters
In less than 24 hours, two UNRWA 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, UNRWA said.
Mr. Türk said at least 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, who heads 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.
Classrooms sheltering displaced families were hit and at least 24 people were reported killed in the strike. Up to 7,000 people were in the school at the time, the UNRWA chief said. On Friday, following strikes on the UNRWA Al-Falah/Zeitoun school in Gaza City, ambulances could not reach the school,where 4,000 people were sheltering.