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Humanitarian situation in Gaza 'catastrophic': Five UN agencies warn

A Palestinian woman stands amidst the debris outside the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, the Gaza Strip, on Oct 18, 2023, in the aftermath of an overnight Israeli strike on the facility. (Photo by AFP)

Five United Nations agencies have sounded the alarm about the humanitarian situation in the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been under a relentless Israeli war for the past two weeks.

Israel launched the war on Gaza on October 7 following an operation by the Gaza-based resistance groups in response to the occupying regime's incessant campaign of bloodshed and destruction against Palestinian people. The war has so far claimed the lives of at least 4,385 Palestinians, mostly women, children and the elderly.

"Gaza was a desperate humanitarian situation before the most recent hostilities," the UN agencies said in a joint statement on Saturday, adding, "It is now catastrophic. The world must do more."

"More than 1.6 million people in Gaza are in critical need of humanitarian aid," noted the statement, which was signed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN children's agency (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), the UN development agency (UNDP), and the world body's population fund, UNFPA.

"Children, pregnant women, and the elderly remain the most vulnerable. Nearly half of Gaza's population are children," the statement added.

The agencies also called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza along with immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access throughout the territory.

"We call for a humanitarian ceasefire, along with immediate, unrestricted humanitarian access throughout Gaza to allow humanitarian actors to reach civilians in need, save lives, and prevent further human suffering," the statement added.

"Flows of humanitarian aid must be at scale and sustained, and allow all Gazans to preserve their dignity," it added.

Israel warns will step up strikes, troops 'ready' to enter Gaza

Also on Saturday, the Israeli regime threatened to step up its strikes against the Gaza Strip, defying an international outcry against its bloody military operation in the territory.

Top Israeli officers also claimed that the regime was prepared to send tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks into Gaza.

"We have to enter the next phase of the war in the best conditions...," Israel's military spokesman, Daniel Hagari, told a press conference, adding, "From today, we are increasing the strikes.... We will increase the attacks and, therefore, I called on Gaza City residents to continue moving south...."

The regime has warned more than one million residents of the northern Gaza to move south. Aid agencies have questioned the feasibility of such a move at short notice, saying hundreds of thousands of civilians remain in and around Gaza City.

Israeli commanders, meanwhile, visited the troops deployed near Gaza, with chief of staff Herzi Halevi saying, "We will enter Gaza."

Last Monday, the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement said it is "not intimidated" by the regime's threat of launching a ground aggression against the blockaded territory.

"Threatening us with ground invasion does not intimidate us, and we are ready to deal with any brutal force," Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for the movement's military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, said in a televised statement.

"We tell the enemy that your entry [into Gaza] will be a new opportunity [for us] to hold you accountable for the crimes that you are committing against us," the spokesperson added, warning, "Gaza will only be a graveyard for its invaders and its sands will swallow you up."

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