Thursday, 12 October 2023 12:34

Humanitarians call for urgent aid access to Gaza

© UNRWA/Mohammed Hinnawi
A school run by UNRWA has been severely damaged in a missile strike.

Gaza is on the brink of running out of food, water, electricity and critical supplies, UN humanitarians warned on Thursday.

No aid can come in from the outside for the 2.3 million residents of the sealed-off enclave, and some 220,000 displaced people are sheltering in schools run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA.

Stocks depleting fast

Humanitarians are continuing to support Gaza’s population as best they can. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that together with UNRWA it delivered fresh bread from “bakeries still able to operate” and food to over 175,000 displaced people across 88 shelters on Wednesday, with plans to “reach over 800,000 people across Palestine”.

The agency stressed that its food assistance stocks were running out and called for urgent aid access.

More humanitarians killed

UNRWA further announced on Thursday that 12 of its personnel have been killed since 7 October in the Gaza Strip.

The UN agency wrote on social platform X, “we mourn this loss and are grieving with our colleagues and the families”, reiterating that “UN staff and civilians must be protected at all times.”

Rights experts call on Hamas to release hostages

Meanwhile, UN-appointed independent rights experts on Thursday added their voice to calls for Hamas to release people taken hostage during its attack on Israel – while also calling for the targeting of civilians in the Palestinian enclave to stop.

The experts, who include Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, called for urgent accountability for the “horrific crimes committed by Hamas”.

No justification’ for violence against civilians

The rights experts also condemned Israel’s “indiscriminate” attacks against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and a further tightening of the “unlawful blockade” against the enclave.

“There is no justification for violence that indiscriminately targets innocent civilians, whether by Hamas or Israeli forces. This is absolutely prohibited under international law and amounts to a war crime,” the experts said.

The rights experts warned of a severe humanitarian crisis in the enclave and of the “inescapable risk of starvation” faced by its population, adding that “intentional starvation is a crime against humanity”.

According to media reports on Thursday, the current conflict, which is expected to escalate further, has claimed at least 2,400 lives. More than 100 Israelis and foreign nationals, including children and older persons, are being held hostage in Gaza.