The United Nations has confirmed more than 58,000 Palestinians have been displaced by an ‘escalation of hostilities’ in a week of Israeli airstrikes aimed at the Gaza Strip.
Tensions rose between Israel and Palestine in the weeks before violence broke out earlier this month, leading to the worst clashes in years between Israel and the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip.
Continued airstrikes have killed at least 219 people in Gaza, including almost 100 women and children, according to the country area’s health ministry, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said thousands more have been made homeless.
In a statement addressing the conflict, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the violence has resulted in ‘immense suffering’ and caused ’caused extensive damage to homes and vital infrastructure’.
Lowcock called for an end to the violence, which has brought ‘nothing but death, destruction and widespread trauma throughout the Occupied Palestinian territory and Israel,’ and expressed the need for a ‘humanitarian pause’ to allow for relief distribution, access to supplies and medical care.
The OCHA noted two million people have remained ‘forcibly isolated’ in Gaza for more than 13 years, and now many of the 58,000 people who have been displaced are being forced to seek refuge in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools.
The statement continued:
I am concerned about the transmission of COVID-19 between vulnerable people huddled in crowded shelters and the inability of the health-care system to cope.
Damage to vital infrastructure and insufficient fuel supplies have affected water, sanitation and hygiene services for hundreds of thousands of people. Electrical power shortages, and the damage to the Gaza Ministry of Health Central Laboratory, hinder healthcare provision at dozens of centres throughout Gaza.
Israel has said it is targeting Hamas militant leaders in the Gaza Strip, arguing most of those killed in Gaza are militants and that any civilian deaths are unintentional, BBC News reports.
In the wake of the violence, the United Kingdom and the United States have joined the UN in calling for more protection for civilians, with videos of young children impacted by the airstrikes causing widespread concern.
In spite of the calls for a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated the country will keep up its campaign in Gaza.
The OCHA has said that in order to provide a suitable response to the violence, responders are in need of ‘adequate funding’ as well as access to Gaza and those in need.
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