The beginning of a ceasefire in Gaza brings optimism for a break from conflict and the ability to reach those in need, according to humanitarian representatives from the United Nations.
They repeated their requests for entry into all areas of the war-torn region, where the number of deaths approached 15,000 and numerous displaced individuals were forced to sleep on the streets.
The spokesperson for the UN’s humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA), Jens Laerke, stated in Geneva that the hope for the recent agreement between Israel and Hamas is that it will be honored, allowing aid workers to reach those in need. The goal is for this pause to eventually turn into a lasting humanitarian ceasefire.
In addition to the 96-hour ceasefire, the deal, mediated by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States, includes the liberation of hostages captured during the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7th and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
Mr. Laerke stated that the agreement has the potential to provide relief to the citizens of Gaza and Israel, as well as the hostages and detainees who will be freed, and their loved ones.
Connecting with individuals “wherever they may be located.”
The representative from OCHA emphasized the precarious and high-pressure circumstances occurring in the initial stages of the ceasefire. They emphasized that the relief pipeline is lengthy and a significant portion of it is outside of our jurisdiction, particularly in regards to confirming the shipments.
The need to reach those in need is urgent, regardless of their location. The speaker emphasized the importance of providing aid to northern Gaza, where the damage and humanitarian needs are most severe. However, this area has been isolated from the rest of the enclave and aid due to Israeli military actions.
Additional medical facility evacuations scheduled
Joining his voice to hopes for the pause to extend into a sustained ceasefire, UN health agency (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier highlighted the plight of patients and health workers trapped in north Gaza’s hospitals and said that planning and efforts towards further evacuations, notably from the Indonesia and Al-Ahli hospitals, are under way.
On Wednesday, a collaboration between UN agencies and the humanitarian partner organization, Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), resulted in the evacuation of 151 injured and ill individuals, along with their family members and medical personnel, from Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. They were transported via ambulance and bus convoy to the south.
According to Mr. Lindmeier, the World Health Organization (WHO) is deeply worried about the well-being of the approximately 100 patients and healthcare workers who are still at the hospital.
Before the war, there were 24 hospitals in the north, but now only two are in operation and able to accept new patients. In the south, out of the 11 medical facilities, eight are currently functioning. According to WHO, only one of those hospitals has the capability to handle severe trauma cases or complicated surgeries.
Energy for emergency response missions.
Prior to the scheduled ceasefire at 7 am on Friday, OCHA observed a rise in attacks and confrontations, stating that Israel ramped up airstrikes from all fronts in Gaza. They also reported ground battles between Palestinian armed groups in the northern region, particularly in Jabalia, resulting in numerous casualties.
According to OCHA, the Government Media Office in Gaza reported that the death toll in the enclave has surpassed 14,800 as of Thursday evening. It is believed that there are thousands of individuals who are currently stuck under the debris of their homes.
In order to increase humanitarian efforts, Jens Laerke of OCHA stressed the importance of providing more fuel to the Strip. This is necessary to power machinery that can help remove people from the rubble, as there has been significant damage to infrastructure and buildings.
According to OCHA, Gaza received 68,383 litres of fuel from Egypt on Thursday, as per an Israeli decision made on November 18th to permit small quantities of fuel for necessary humanitarian operations. Last week, the UN Office stated that a daily supply of 200,000 litres of fuel was required.
Mr. Laerke emphasized that the fuel being sent to Gaza is under the control of the UN at all times and is being dispensed by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
Approximately 1.7 million individuals in Gaza are believed to have been forced to leave their homes, with around 1 million seeking refuge in over 150 shelters managed by UNRWA throughout the region.
Many shelters in the southern region are currently housing more people than they are designed for, as a result of individuals being displaced due to Israeli military actions. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that a large number of men and older boys who have been displaced are having to sleep in outdoor areas, such as school playgrounds or on nearby streets.
On Thursday, UNRWA director Philippe Lazzarini emphasized that the residents of Gaza should be able to rest peacefully without worrying about their safety throughout the night.
He insisted that this is the minimum requirement for everyone to have.