The leader of UNRWA emphasizes the responsibility to always safeguard civilians in Gaza.
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini stated that safeguarding civilians during times of conflict is not merely a goal or a concept, but rather a duty and a pledge to our collective humanity.
According to the speaker, the combination of continuous air attacks and bombings, along with Israel’s evacuation directives, have resulted in the displacement of approximately one million individuals in Gaza. Numerous innocent civilians have also suffered fatalities and injuries.
Approximately 500,000 individuals are currently seeking shelter in UNRWA facilities, and the ones located in the southern cities of Khan Younis and Rafah are experiencing overcrowding. As a result, many have sought shelter in UNRWA buildings that were not designed for such use, leading to extremely challenging living conditions.
Mr. Lazzarini reported that UNRWA has been consistently sharing the locations of its facilities throughout Gaza with all relevant parties since the start of the conflict on October 7th. However, despite these efforts, at least 35 facilities have been affected and some have been directly targeted.
17 colleagues killed
He expressed his distress upon receiving ongoing updates of civilian deaths in Gaza, including those at UNRWA.
Unfortunately, thus far, 17 of our coworkers have been verified as casualties in this brutal conflict. Tragically, it is probable that the true count is even greater. Certain members of our team lost their lives along with their loved ones while they were peacefully asleep in their own homes.
Duty to protect
Mr. Lazzarini recalled “the non-negotiable legal obligations” of warring parties to protect civilians at all times, and to refrain from attacks on civilian facilities “including schools, hospitals, places of worship, and civilians’ homes, including those of UNRWA staff.”
He reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s plea for all involved parties to achieve an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, stating that “this is the sole solution to end the chaos; any alternative will lead Gaza – and the global community – into immeasurable, sinister depths.”
West Bank violence
UNRWA subsequently released a statement regarding a 28-hour operation by the Israeli Security Forces at the Nur Shams refugee camp in the West Bank.
At least 13 Palestinians, including five children, were reported to have been killed. There were reports of an Israeli soldier being killed and many others being injured.
According to Adam Bouloukos, the Director of UNRWA in the West Bank, the organization was compelled to halt its operations at the camp, which included schools, healthcare, and waste management services.
Before the situation was evaluated further, it was discovered that approximately 50 houses had been affected, with some experiencing severe damage. The infrastructure, including roads, electricity, water, internet, and sewage systems, were also affected. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was notified that certain homes were being used for military purposes, putting the residents in great peril.
Mr. Bouloukos stated that the recent events are a clear example of the ongoing intensification of tension, putting the lives of Palestine refugees in camps throughout the West Bank at risk. He also mentioned that this operation is the biggest one since the one in Jenin back in July of this year.
According to his report, the number of Palestinian fatalities in the West Bank has reached 270 this year. Out of this total, 20% were children and more than half were refugees.
He stated that this is the greatest number of deaths in one year since UNRWA began regularly gathering this information in 2012.
He cautioned that these recent occurrences were expected to worsen existing tensions due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which started on October 7th. At least 82 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since then.
The source is the United Nations News website.