Regarding the situation in Gaza, the United Nations has warned that “many more will die” due to the catastrophic shortages that have arisen after nearly three weeks of bombardment by Israel in response to the deadliest attack in Hamas’s history.
As the conflict raged into its 21st day, the Israeli army said its soldiers backed by fighter jets and drones mounted a land incursion into the Gaza Strip, as it prepares for a ground offensive.
Concern is growing about regional fallout from the conflict, with the United States warning Iran against escalation while striking facilities in Syria it says were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and others.
Israel has heavily bombarded Gaza since Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, kidnapping more than 220 others, according to Israeli officials.
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says the strikes have killed more than 7,000 people, mainly civilians and many of them children, leading to growing calls for protection of innocents caught up in the conflict.
“People in Gaza are dying, they are not only dying from bombs and strikes, soon many more will die from the consequences of (the) siege imposed on the Gaza Strip,” Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), told reporters in Jerusalem.
Israel has cut supplies of food, water and power to Gaza, notably blocking all deliveries of fuel saying it would be exploited by Hamas to manufacture weapons and explosives.
“Basic services are crumbling, medicine is running out, food and water are running out, the streets of Gaza have started overflowing with sewage,” he said of the devastated territory where around 45 percent of all housing has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN which cited local authorities.
‘Uninterrupted aid flow’
A first tranche of critically needed aid was allowed in at the weekend but since then only 74 trucks have crossed in via the Rafah border with Egypt, which aid agencies say is just a tiny fraction of what was needed.
Before the conflict, an average of 500 trucks entered Gaza every working day, UN figures show.
Gaza needed a “meaningful and uninterrupted aid flow” and a “humanitarian ceasefire to ensure this aid reaches those in need,” Lazzarini said, echoing a similar call by European Union leaders.
European Union leaders had on Thursday evening demanded “continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and aid to reach those in need through all necessary measures including humanitarian corridors and pauses for humanitarian needs.”
Between the bombardments and the fuel shortages, 12 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals have been forced to close, and UNRWA said it has had to “significantly reduce its operations.”
“What needs more support? Bakeries, water stations, life support machines in a hospital – all this needs fuel to function,” the head of the agency said on Friday.
The agency has so far had 57 staff killed since the war began, Lazzarini told journalists.