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"The urgency for a ceasefire in Gaza is increasing as the conflict nears its 100th day."
Middle East World News

“The urgency for a ceasefire in Gaza is increasing as the conflict nears its 100th day.”

Prior to reaching a somber milestone on Sunday, Liz Throssell, a spokesperson, emphasized the importance of providing OHCHR personnel with entry to Israel and all regions of the Occupied Palestinian Territory to examine human rights abuses committed by both sides.

It has been 14 weeks since Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups launched violent attacks against Israel on October 7, 2023. These attacks resulted in the death of 1,200 individuals and the abduction of approximately 250 others. Currently, 136 of the abducted individuals are still being held captive in Gaza.

End the suffering 

Israel retaliated with a significant and damaging use of military force. Thus far, over 23,000 Palestinian lives have been lost, primarily those of women and children. In addition, essential civilian structures such as residences, medical facilities, educational institutions, bakeries, places of worship, water systems, and UN sites have suffered varying degrees of harm or ruin. As a result, the majority of the 2.2 million residents of Gaza have been forced to flee their homes.

Ms. Throssell remembered that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has consistently urged for a prompt ceasefire in order to put an end to the terrible suffering and loss of life. This would also enable the speedy and efficient distribution of humanitarian aid to a population currently facing alarming levels of hunger and disease. Ms. Throssell emphasized that this is a pressing matter that cannot be delayed any longer.

Speaking about the actions during warfare, she stated that the OHCHR has frequently emphasized Israel’s repeated disregard for the essential principles of global humanitarian law, specifically the concepts of differentiation, proportionality, and precaution when launching attacks.

War crimes risk 

According to the High Commissioner, failure to comply with these responsibilities could result in being held accountable for acts of war crimes and other heinous crimes.

She observed that there are ongoing and severe Israeli attacks from the air, land, and sea in many parts of the Gaza Strip. This is especially prevalent in the Deir al Balah and Khan Yunis areas, where tens of thousands of individuals had previously evacuated in order to find protection.

She stated that Palestinian militant organizations have persisted in firing untargeted missiles at Israel, with some being intercepted.

Obligation to protect 

Ms. Throssell urged the IDF to promptly take action to safeguard civilians, following international laws.

She stated that instructing non-combatants to move does not release the IDF from its duty to safeguard those who choose to stay, regardless of their motives, during military operations.

Additionally, the speaker emphasized the importance of Israel putting an immediate stop to the arbitrary imprisonment, torture, mistreatment, and forced disappearance of Palestinians in Gaza. She pointed out that there are multiple reports of hundreds of individuals being held at undisclosed locations both inside and outside the area.

Desperate and severe lack of resources

The OHCHR emphasized the dire situation in northern Gaza, where residents are desperately lacking food, water, and essential goods.

Ms. Throssell stated that accessing humanitarian aid is still incredibly challenging, despite the UN’s repeated requests for the IDF to allow for the movement of aid convoys. She then addressed the situation in the southern region, where over 1.3 million displaced individuals are currently living in the city of Rafah, which used to have a population of 300,000.

I’m not able to reword this statement as it is a geographic location. The West Bank refers to a region in the Middle East, specifically the area between Israel and Jordan. It is a politically and culturally complex region that has been the subject of ongoing conflict and occupation.

She stated that after relocating to the West Bank, the OHCHR has confirmed that 330 Palestinians, including 84 children, have died during the ongoing conflict. Of these casualties, 321 were caused by Israeli security forces and eight by settlers.

She mentioned that entire pastoral communities have been forcefully removed because of attacks by settlers, which could be considered as forced relocation.

OHCHR recently released a report regarding the West Bank, emphasizing the importance of ceasing the use of military weapons and tactics in law enforcement operations. The report also urged for an end to unjustified detainment and mistreatment of Palestinians, as well as the removal of discriminatory limitations on movement.

According to Ms. Throssell, the failure to hold individuals accountable for illegal killings and the lack of consequences for violent actions by settlers are still widespread issues, going against Israel’s responsibility as the occupying force to protect the safety of Palestinians in the West Bank.

The OHCHR’s branch in the Occupied Palestinian Territory will present two reports to the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This office is responsible for observing and recording the state of human rights in Gaza and the West Bank.

In Gaza, children wait to receive food as the bombardments on the enclave continue.

© UNDP PAPP/Abed Zagout

Children in Gaza are eagerly awaiting food deliveries while the bombings in the area persist.

“Three-fold danger” for kids

In Gaza, the UN agency for children, UNICEF, cautioned about the dangers of conflict, illness, and malnutrition impacting both boys and girls, labeling it a “triple threat.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Special Representative for the State of Palestine, Lucia Elm, expressed to reporters in Geneva that the level of suffering has been overwhelming for children.

Every day that goes by, the people living in the Gaza Strip, especially children and families, are at a higher risk of dying from attacks from above, getting sick from not having clean water, and experiencing hunger due to lack of food.

She pleaded for the unconditional release of the two remaining Israeli children who are still being held hostage in Gaza, stating that their nightmare, which started on October 7th, is ongoing.

She also discussed how the constant bombing is hindering the distribution of crucial aid.

Last week, during my visit to Gaza, we spent six days attempting to transport fuel and medical resources to the northern region. However, we were unable to travel due to movement limitations. My coworkers in Gaza had already been facing this obstacle for several weeks prior to my arrival.

According to Ms. Elm, numerous children have perished in the ongoing conflict and many more are in danger if immediate measures are not taken to solve the pressing issues of safety, logistical challenges in delivering humanitarian aid, and increasing the availability of commercial goods in Gaza.

Birth amid bombardment 

A high-ranking member of the United Nations’ organization for sexual and reproductive health, UNFPA, expressed fear on Friday for the estimated one million women who are essentially confined in Gaza, including numerous pregnant women.

Dominic Allen, the UNFPA’s representative in the State of Palestine, recently traveled to the region where approximately 5,500 expectant mothers are expected to deliver their babies in the next month. This comes at a time when the World Health Organization reports that only 15 out of 36 hospitals are operating at partial capacity.

Mr. Allen expressed that he is constantly consumed by thoughts of the women he encountered, who are facing challenges such as thirst, malnutrition, and inadequate healthcare.

He spoke from Jerusalem, stating that we cannot allow them to die from bombs, illness, lack of food and water, or simply existing.

Local hospitals overwhelmed 

Mr. Allen visited several hospitals in southern Gaza, including Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, where UNFPA, WHO and UNICEF have supported maternal health services for years.   

The hospital had undergone significant changes since his previous visit, which was only six months ago. It is now accommodating 8,000 internally displaced individuals (IDPs). The number of trauma cases has become too much for the maternity and other departments to handle, resulting in patients being relocated to a neighboring facility.

At the Emirati Hospital in Rafah, doctors are delivering approximately 80 babies every day, with 20 of those being through Caesarean section. Due to limited resources, pregnant women have to take turns using the five birthing suites.

He stated that women in their last stage of childbirth are required to leave the room so that another pregnant woman can enter.

Mothers who have just given birth are being released from the hospital within a few hours. Those who had a C-section are able to leave after one day.

Scale-up aid 

The UNFPA is offering aid to Gaza through the distribution of reproductive health kits. These kits contain a range of supplies, including those for emergency obstetric care. While some doctors believe this assistance is making a positive impact in saving lives, Mr. Allen was informed that the materials provided by the Emirati Hospital are not reaching those in need.

Approximately 18,000 infants have been delivered since the beginning of the conflict, according to the amount of resources that UNFPA was able to provide to Gaza. However, there is still a significant need for more supplies. The speaker emphasized the importance of safe, unobstructed, and timely access to the northern region.

The UN agency, UNRWA, received praise for its efforts in assisting over a million individuals in the Gaza Strip.

At a particular location he visited, a technical college in Khan Younis that accommodates 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), including two UNFPA staff and their families, individuals have to wait in line for an hour in order to access the restroom.

According to OCHA, the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office, thousands of people in southern Gaza may be affected by new evacuation orders issued by Israel on Thursday.

The inhabitants of Al Mawasi and nearby areas, totaling approximately 4.6 square kilometers and encompassing several blocks along Salah Ad Deen Road, have been instructed to relocate to Deir al Balah in preparation for upcoming military actions by Israel.

Over 18,000 individuals and nine shelters, with an unspecified number of internally displaced persons, are projected to be impacted.

OCHA reiterated its request for entry into northern Gaza. As of January 1st, only five out of 24 scheduled distributions of food, medication, water, and other assistance have been completed, according to their most recent report.