Spikes in casualties, attacks on schools and shelters, crippling fuel shortages blocking aid deliveries rippled across Gaza over the weekend, as UN officials called for a humanitarian ceasefire amid the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.
Gaza’s 1.7 million people have been forcefully displaced since the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel resulted in the killing of about 1,200 Israelis and capture of 240 hostages.
Latest reports indicate that over 11,500 people have been killed so far in besieged Gaza.
“This war is having a staggering and unacceptable number of civilian casualties, including women and children, everyday,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement on Sunday. “This must stop. I reiterate my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”
“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. Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, stressing that failing to adhere to these rules may constitute war crimes.
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According to the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) 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.”
In less than 24 hours, two UNRWA schools sheltering displaced families were hit, causing many deaths and injuries in addition to other deadly incidents across Gaza and the West Bank against the backdrop of soaring humanitarian needs, UNRWA 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.
Israeli military operations have been continuing inside and around Al-Shifa Hospital, with UN staff members that visited the site on Saturday describing it as a “death zone”.
Medical personnel, patients and civilians had fled hospitals over the weekend, ordered to do so by the Israeli military, UNRWA’s chief said, adding that hundreds were seen making their way south on foot, at great risk to their lives, health and safety.