Tuesday, June 15, 2021
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Civilian Casualties Climb, As UN Chief Calls On All Parties To ‘Immediately Cease’ Fighting In Gaza And Israel


The UN Secretary-General on Friday issued an
urgent
appeal
for all parties involved in this
week’s escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian
enclave of Gaza, and Israel, to “immediately cease the
fighting”, or risk creating an “uncontainable security and
humanitarian crisis”.

“The ongoing military
escalation has caused great suffering and destruction”, said
a statement issued on behalf of António Guterres by his
Spokesperson. “It has claimed scores of civilian lives,
including, tragically, many children. The fighting has the
potential to unleash an uncontainable security and
humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not
only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but
in the region as a whole. “

UN ‘actively involved’ in
mediation

The UN chief called for meditation efforts
to intensify and said the UN was “actively involved in such
efforts”, which are also key to maintaining the lifesaving
flow of aid to Gaza.

The UN humanitarian affairs
coordination office (OCHA) also raised
the alarm
on Friday over the continued escalation of
violence, noting that civilians on both sides were bearing
the brunt.

According to latest news reports, the day
has seen the most intense exchanges of the week between
Israeli Defense Forces and that of the militant group Hamas,
which controls Gaza. The enclave continues to be bombed by
Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire, while Hamas rocket
barrages continue into Israel.

The UN Security
Council
announced that it will convene on Sunday for an
open meeting to discuss the worsening situation. Diplomatic
efforts are reportedly underway in the region, to negotiate
an end to the spiralling violence.

10,000 flee in
Gaza

In a statement, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator
in the region, Lynn
Hastings
, said some 10,000 Palestinians had fled their
homes in Gaza, with limited access to water, food, hygiene,
and health services. Hospitals and access to water and
sanitation services depend on electricity, the fuel for
which will run out on Sunday, she added.

“The
Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups must
immediately allow the United Nations and our humanitarian
partners to bring in fuel, food, and medical supplies and to
deploy humanitarian personnel. All parties must always
adhere to international humanitarian and human rights
laws”, she said.

‘Extensive
damage’

“Civilians are suffering”, spokesperson
Jens Laerke told journalists earlier, at a media briefing in
Geneva, noting that extensive damage has been reported to
civilian property in densely populated areas all across the
Gaza Strip, with over 200 housing units destroyed or
severely damaged.

There are also reports of hundreds
of people, many from refugee camps in Gaza, seeking safety
and shelter in schools run by UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works
Agency for Palestine Refugees, especially in the northern
Gaza Strip.

Humanitarian response
affected

While humanitarians continue to deliver
assistance on the ground, it has been “significantly
restricted” by the prevailing insecurity, Mr. Laerke
added.

He noted also that Israeli authorities had
closed the Erez crossing in the north of the Gaza Strip on
10 May, including for humanitarian workers, as well as the
Kerem Shalom crossing in the south, a crucial channel for
goods and fuel into the enclave.

“Given the limited
fuel reserves, Gaza’s sole power plant”, is running
“on only two of its four turbines, resulting in rolling
daily power cuts of 8-12 hours”, he said.

Mr. Laerke
stressed it was “critical” that fuel for the power plant
enters regularly to ensure basic services
function.

“Without further provision, fuel is due to
run out in the coming days. This will cause significant
reduction in electricity supply, again impacting the
availability of health, water and sanitation
services”.

UNFPA warning over ‘already
strained’ health system

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said in a statement
that it was “alarmed by the number of civilian casualties,
including children and women caused by the current
escalation”, calling for end to the destruction of health
facilities, schools, and homes across Gaza.

The UN
sexual and reproductive health agency in the region said the
struggling health sector was already strained “after years
of protracted crisis further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic
with a 20% increase in active cases in April
alone”.

There are currently some 210,000 pregnant
and lactating women in Palestine, according to UNFPA. And
around 365 women give birth every day – 150 in Gaza, 215
in West Bank.

“Our immediate priority is to ensure
safe delivery for these women and their babies”, said
UNFPA’s Arab States Regional Director, Dr. Luay
Shabaneh.

He called on all parties to stop the
fighting, “to ensure the full protection of civilians and
the safety of Palestinian and Israeli women and adolescent
girls, ensure maternity wards are fully operational and
equipped with designated operating rooms and sufficient
staff, ensure the availability of essential supplies for
safe delivery, and implement emergency referral
mechanisms”.

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