इंडियन आवाज़     21 May 2024 03:26:59      انڈین آواز

Israel-Palestine crisis: ‘It’s the innocent civilians who are losing’

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More funding is urgently needed for lifesaving aid in Gaza while concern is deepening over high numbers of civilians killed since the beginning of the crisis and human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Air strikes on Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip have caused widespread damage.
© UNICEF/Eyad El Baba Air strikes on Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip have caused widespread damage.

Briefing reporters in Geneva on Friday UN health agency (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said that in Israel, where 1,400 people have been killed so far, and in Gaza, where over 9,000 have been killed according to Hamas run authorities, 70 per cent of the victims are women and children.

“It’s the innocent civilians that are losing here. Let’s think about the victims,” he insisted.

Proportionality in attacks ‘not respected’

UN human rights office (OHCHR) spokesperson Liz Throssell highlighted concerns over Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia and Al Bureij refugee camps in recent days with dozens of residential buildings destroyed, as well as the high number of casualties reported in the enclave and the “reported use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in some of the most densely populated areas in Gaza”.

“We have serious concerns that the principles of distinction and proportionality are not being respected by both sides,” she said.

OHCHR already said on Wednesday that given the high number of civilian deaths and injuries in Gaza and the scale of the destruction following Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia refugee camp, these could be “disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes”.

Hostages must be released

Ms. Throssell reiterated calls on Palestinian armed groups to “immediately stop launching inherently indiscriminate rockets into Israel” and “immediately and unconditionally release all the hostages they hold, in serious breach of international humanitarian law”.

According to Israeli authorities, 242 people are held captive in Gaza, including Israelis and foreign nationals. Media reports indicate that about 30 of the hostages are children. 

The OHCHR spokesperson also recalled “the obligations of the de facto authorities to respect and protect the human rights of the people of Gaza”.

She highlighted that “the intentional co-location of military objectives and civilians or persons hors de combat with the specific intent of trying to prevent the targeting of military objectives is a serious breach of international humanitarian law”.

Israel has been alleging that Hamas uses civilians as human shields and hospitals and other civilian infrastructure for military purposes.

Funds urgently needed

“The situation has grown increasingly desperate” and the UN and partners will release an updated flash appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory on Monday covering the remainder of the year, UN humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA) spokesperson Jens Laerke said on Friday.

An initial flash appeal for $294 million to support nearly 1.3 million people, launched on 12 October, will not be enough, Mr. Laerke said. Now, 2.7 million people – the entire population of Gaza and 500,000 people in the occupied West Bank – require assistance with food, water, health care, shelter, hygiene and the cost of meeting their needs is estimated to be $1.2 billion.

Mr. Laerke noted that the original flash appeal is 25 per cent funded so far, the three main donors being the United States, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, or CERF – a multi-donor humanitarian fund – and Japan.

Humanitarian pauses, key

To be able to deliver the aid, Mr. Laerke reiterated the need for humanitarian pauses. He stressed that such “deconfliction mechanisms” have been implemented in “many other contexts” including northwest Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

“It is not beyond our competency to set up and facilitate such mechanisms”, he said, which “require an agreement between those doing the fighting that they will stop”.

‘Ease the suffering’

Mr. Laerke stressed yet again that “our ability to ease the suffering of the Palestinian population” will also depend on the availability of fuel.

No fuel has been allowed into Gaza since the start of the crisis and OCHA said that because of the shortages, the operation of water wells and desalination plants in the southern half of Gaza “stopped almost completely” on Thursday. OCHA also said that “there is not enough clarity on access of people to water in northern Gaza”.

Mr. Laerke further stressed that the opening of border crossings between Israel and Gaza, such as the Kerem Shalom crossing which has been a key point of entry for goods until the escalation, will be “paramount”.

So far, aid has only been allowed in through the Rafah crossing from Egypt, with a total of 374 trucks entering since deliveries resumed on 21 October. The largest convoy, composed of 102 trucks, came in on Thursday. OCHA said that the available aid “remains insufficient to cover people’s basic needs”.


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