Gaza: Top UN aid official calls for end to attacks on sites sheltering civilians
© UNICEF/Abed Zaqout | Palestinian women mourn the loss of a family member at Al-Nasser Medical Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
United Nations, 25 January 2024
Attacks on buildings in Gaza where terrified civilians are sheltering are “abhorrent and must stop immediately”, a top UN humanitarian official insisted on Thursday following a direct hit on a United Nations training centre.
The death toll from intensified fighting “in the area” of the training centre in the southern city of Khan Younis in recent days has risen to 12 confirmed fatalities and 75 injured – 15 critically – said Thomas White, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“Persistent attacks on civilian sites in Khan Younis are utterly unacceptable and must stop immediately…Yesterday, the centre was hit by two shells and caught fire,” Mr. White said, as he condemned the “consistent failure to uphold the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law: distinction, proportionality and precautions in carrying out attacks”.
Terrified – and trapped
Amid ongoing heavy fighting involving Israeli Defense Forces and Palestinian armed groups around hospitals and shelters in Khan Younis, the UN official warned that staff, patients and displaced people “are trapped inside and lifesaving operations are impeded”.
“A number of missions to assess the situation were denied,” Mr. White maintained, adding that on Wednesday evening, “the UN finally managed to reach the affected areas to treat trauma patients, bring medical supplies and evacuate injured patients to Rafah.”
But, heavy fighting near the few hospitals that remain partly functional in the southern city, including Nasser Medical Complex and Al-Amal, has left them “effectively encircled”, the UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator reported from Gaza.
Another hospital closes
Amid reports that hundreds of buildings have been demolished in Gaza, Mr. White noted that Al-Kheir Hospital in Khan Younis had now closed “after patients, including women who had just undergone C-section surgeries, were evacuated in the middle of the night”.
Confirming details of the rescue mission in Khan Younis, UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that a team had helped to evacuate 45 patients from the UN training centre to Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, “15 of whom were in critical condition. One patient tragically died en route”.
In a social media post on X, formerly Twitter, Tedros noted that the intensity of fighting was such that the team “did not manage to evacuate all of the injured”.
“We urge protection of all civilians, humanitarians and health workers. We appeal for an immediate ceasefire,” he stated.
Court ruling looms
The development came as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) prepared to issue a decision in South Africa’s case against Israel over alleged genocide in Gaza, which Israel strongly denies.
Since war began in Gaza on 7 October 2023 when Israel launched heavy bombardment in response to Hamas-led attacks on Israeli communities that left some 1,200 dead and more than 250 taken hostage, Gaza health authorities have reported that at least 25,700 people have been killed and some 63,740 injured.
The original article appeared here.