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The uncertainty of "safe zones" in Gaza adds to the desperation in the area.
Middle East World News

The uncertainty of “safe zones” in Gaza adds to the desperation in the area.

Dr. Rick Peeperkorn, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, reported from the southern city of Rafah that there has been more violence following the Israeli bombings that resumed last Friday.

Dr. Peeperkorn, speaking to journalists in Geneva through a video connection, expressed that the situation is rapidly deteriorating. He stated that there is increased bombing happening in the southern regions, including Khan Younis and even Rafah.

The medical expert from WHO reported an escalating number of people who have been forced to leave their homes in the Middle region, and now even in the southern areas, due to safety concerns.

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In response to these concerns, James Elder, a spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund, referenced international humanitarian law which requires military forces to do everything possible to safeguard civilians. He stated that it was not acceptable for them to unilaterally declare that civilians should seek refuge in “safe zones”, when these areas were actually just sidewalks or partially constructed buildings lacking essential resources like water, shelter, and sanitation.

According to Mr. Elder, a zone cannot be considered safe if it is only protected from bombing, as there are some zones that have not been free from it.

Deadly toll

The latest information from humanitarian sources revealed that the UN’s aid coordination office, OCHA, stated that a total of 349 Palestinians were killed and 750 were injured in Gaza between the afternoon of December 3 and the afternoon of December 4, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH).

According to Israeli sources, OCHA’s most recent emergency update reported that three Israeli soldiers were killed.

Women bake bread surrounded by destroyed buildings in Khan Yunis, Gaza during the recent humanitarian pause.

© UNRWA/Ashraf Amra

During the recent humanitarian ceasefire, women in Khan Yunis, Gaza were seen baking bread amidst the ruins of destroyed buildings.

Eight out of ten people in Gaza are currently without a home.

The United Nations agency responsible for providing aid to Palestinian refugees, UNWRA, reports that over 1.9 million individuals, which accounts for more than 85% of the population in Gaza, have been forced to leave their homes since October 7th.

The UN agency reported that 156 UNRWA facilities in the Gaza Strip, including the North and Gaza City, have provided refuge for nearly 1.2 million individuals who have been displaced.

The organization also verified that 19 more coworkers lost their lives due to airstrikes, increasing the overall death toll to 130 since October 7th. According to a UNWRA counselor named Jehan, they are also at risk while walking and their lives are on hold. The scent of death lingers in the air, but they remain determined to survive.

Aid lifeline

According to health officials in Gaza, the current conflict has resulted in the deaths of at least 15,523 Palestinians, with approximately 70% of those being women and children. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that there are also numerous people who are unaccounted for, likely trapped under the debris and awaiting rescue or retrieval.

Despite severe shortages of humanitarian resources, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that on Sunday, approximately 100 trucks carrying aid and 69,000 liters of fuel arrived in the enclave. This was followed by a similar delivery to Gaza on Saturday, which according to the UN, is still significantly lower than the average daily deliveries of 170 trucks and 110,000 liters of fuel during the ceasefire period from November 24th to 30th.

Dr. Peeperkorn from the WHO expressed that the current aid being provided is insufficient in the midst of the escalating crisis in Gaza. He emphasized the urgent need for additional supplies such as medicine, food, water, and fuel.

The healthcare infrastructure in Gaza is severely damaged, with very few functioning facilities in the northern region. The only hospital, Al-Ahli, is overwhelmed with patients suffering from multiple traumas and a shortage of resources. The WHO representative expressed great worry that the situation in the south may mirror the same dire conditions.

Patients’ plight

According to the speaker, the enclave previously had a capacity of 3,500 beds but due to the 7 October conflict, it now only has 1,500 beds.

“If you look around, there’s hardly any hospital there left (in the north). So, we’ve seen what happened in northern Gaza and of course we are deeply concerned that this cannot be – this should not be – a blueprint for the south.”

A representative from the WHO also verified that on Sunday, medical resources were transported from two warehouses in Khan Younis to Rafah. This decision was made due to concerns that the storage facilities were located in an area where residents were instructed to evacuate and could potentially become a site of ongoing conflict in the near future.