| 24 February 2024, Saturday |

UNRWA: People of Gaza ‘Running Out Of Time and Options

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned Wednesday that the people of Gaza were “running out of time and options” as Israel’s war against Hamas grinds on.

“They face bombardment, deprivation and disease in an ever-shrinking space,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.

Lazzarini described the situation in Gaza as “hell on earth”.

People in the Palestinian territory were “facing the darkest chapter of their history since 1948, and it has been a painful history”, he said, AFP reported.

Now in its third month, the bloodiest-ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas gunmen attacked Israel on October 7.

Israel’s relentless bombardment and ground operation in Gaza has left the territory in ruins, killing more than 18,400 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The UN estimates 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced and are receiving goods from only around 100 aid trucks per day.

“We are very far from an adequate humanitarian response,” Lazzarini said.

When aid was delivered, it was often not more than a can of tuna or beans and one bottle of water for a large family to share, he added.

He described seeing people halting an aid truck and in desperation and swallowing down the food found inside where they stood in the street.

“The people of Gaza are now crammed into less than one-third of the original territory near the Egyptian border, he added, hinting that the dire situation might soon spark an exodus.

“It is unrealistic to think that people will remain resilient in the face of unlivable conditions of such magnitude, especially when the border is so close,” he said.

The city of Rafah on the Egyptian border, the only crossing where aid is entering Gaza, has seen its population explode from 280,000 to more than a million, Lazzarini said.

And while most aid delivery in Gaza depends on UNRWA, he warned the agency’s capacities were “on the verge of collapse”.

Addressing journalists at the same event, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi also warned of the danger of large population movements out of Gaza.

Any such exodus “would be extremely destabilizing for Egypt, for the Sinai region, and it would make a problematic Palestinian problem more difficult”, he said.

It is vital that any evacuation of people out of the devastated territory “is not forced”, he said.

“Since these people are under bombardment and in a very difficult situation, it must be said that a ceasefire is the only way out of this impasse.”


  • Asharq Al-Awsat