Escalation of violence increases civilian suffering in Israel and Palestinian Territories - OCHA
As the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinians takes an increasingly heavy toll on civilians, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) expressed its deep concern for the effect the conflict is having on people’s access to water, sanitation, and health care, especially in Gaza.
“We are alarmed by the continued escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel,” UN OCHA Spokesperson Jeans Laerke said at a press briefing in Geneva today. “The casualty count continues to climb on both sides of the conflict and civilians are suffering,” Laerke added.
The situation appears especially dramatic in the Gaza strip, where fuel and medicines were already scarce, and where shortages affect an estimated two million Palestinians.
“We are in contact with all the relevant actors on the ground so that we can obtain two things: again, access in and out of the Gaza Strip – that’s through the Erez crossing point in the North which has been closed as of 10th of May – and for the goods that we need to get in, in particular fuel. So, these are negotiations that are ongoing”, Jens Laerke said.
OCHA reports that the North Gaza Seawater Desalination Plant is still not operational, affecting an estimated 250,000 people’s access to clean drinking water. Another 230,000 people from Gaza City and Khan Younis have limited access to piped water due to increasing power cuts and the damage to the networks.
“Extensive damage is reported to civilian properties in densely populated areas all over Gaza, with over 200 housing units destroyed or severely damaged”, Laerke reported. “Humanitarian partners working in shelter are supporting displaced families with non-food items and cash support”.
Laerke also said that “education partners inform us that 31 education facilities, including schools, vocational training centres and higher education facilities have been impacted since the start of the escalation.”
According to reports, hundreds of people, many from refugee camps in Gaza, are seeking refuge and shelter in schools run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“UNRWA says that it has experienced in quickly turning its schools into shelters, but the challenge is the pandemic and the risk of people crowding and spreading the virus”, Laerke said. He added that “another major risk is the UNRWA has not yet been able to put in place necessary preparation in these schools-turned-shelters because of the restriction on staff movement in the past two days.”
Humanitarian workers continue to provide assistance on the ground, but the current insecurity limits the delivery of essential services, including needed response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as people are unable to safely access treatment and vaccination facilities.
“We continue to call for an immediate de-escalation of violence across the occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, reminding the parties to the conflict of their obligation to protect civilians and allow access for humanitarian groups to safely provide assistance,” Laerke said.