Current violence pushing Gaza into a humanitarian crisis, UN agencies warn

The ongoing violence in Gaza, on top of the sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation this year, is pushing the Palestinian population into a deep crisis, a dozen United Nations aid agencies working in the region warned today.

They called on the Israeli Government to guarantee humanitarian agencies unrestricted and secure access into Gaza for both personnel and relief supplies, ensure the free movement of humanitarian goods and personnel within the territory, and respect its obligations under international humanitarian law by ensuring the safety of the Palestinian civilian population.

“The UN organizations recognize Israel’s legitimate security concerns, particularly the need to stop Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks into civilian areas; however, its actions should be in conformity with international humanitarian law and it should not use disproportionate force,” they said in a statement released in Jerusalem.

Since 28 September, 82 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 24 children, while 5 Israelis - including 2 children - have lost their lives. For the year, approximately 45 Palestinians have been killed each month in Gaza and poverty rates are predicted to rise to 72 per cent.

At the same time, movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have prevented effective delivery of humanitarian aid. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) - the main organization helping people in the region - has not been able to deliver emergency food aid to the north of Gaza.

The IDF has also denied UN personnel secure access into Gaza for the last two weeks - making a total of 65 days so far this year that the UN has not been able to enter.

In related news, Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked in New York if Israel should apologize if what it had claimed to be a rocket being loaded on a UN vehicle was in fact a hospital stretcher.

“In my discussions with the [Israeli Ambassador to the UN], I did raise that if it is found out that the facts are not correct, that they would issue a disclaimer on their side,” he replied.

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