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UNRWA chief demands end to Israeli attacks on UN staff, Gaza civilians

Gaza children are living under constant bombardment with many packed into UN-run schools after fleeing their homes with little food or clean water. (Photo by AP)

The head of the UN Refugee and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has appealed for an end to Israel's relentless attacks on places such as schools, hospitals and the homes of his staff across Gaza. 

In a statement released over the weekend, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that the protection of civilians must be upheld as “the non-negotiable legal obligations” at all times.

“Let me be clear: protecting civilians in times of conflict is not an aspiration or an ideal; it is an obligation and a commitment to our shared humanity,” the statement read.

Lazzarini also called on Israel to refrain from attacks on civilian facilities “including schools, hospitals, places of worship, and civilians’ homes, including those of UNRWA staff.”

The agency said that 29 of its staff had been killed in the besieged Gaza Strip.

“We are in shock and mourning. It is now confirmed that 29 of our colleagues in Gaza have been killed since October 7,” UNRWA wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Half were teachers, the agency said.

“…Very sadly, the actual numbers are likely to be higher. Some of our staff were killed with their families while sleeping in their beds at home,” Lazzarini said.

 “Relentless airstrikes and bombardments, coupled with evacuation orders from Israel, have displaced nearly one million people in Gaza,” he said. “Many civilians have been killed and injured.”

Elsewhere in the statement, Lazzarini echoed the UN chief's call on all warring parties to reach an urgent humanitarian ceasefire, saying, “This is the only way out of this mayhem; any other way will plunge Gaza – and the world – deeper into fathomless, dark depths.”

“Relentless airstrikes and bombardments, coupled with evacuation orders from Israel, have displaced nearly one million people in Gaza,” he said.

This comes as the Israeli regime's military has issued a new warning to Palestinians living in Gaza to evacuate the northern part of the besieged enclave and move to the south, as the occupation forces continue their bombardment.  

The latest warning comes a week after Israel ordered 1.1 million residents in the northern part of the Gaza Strip to head to the south, with no guarantee of safety or return.

Children traumatized by incessant Israeli bombing of Gaza

Palestinian media reports indicate that children were showing ever more signs of trauma two weeks into Israel’s intense bombardment of the besieged enclave

“Children ... have started to develop serious trauma symptoms such as convulsions, bed-wetting, fear, aggressive behavior, nervousness, and not leaving their parents’ sides,” Gaza psychiatrist Fadel Abu Heen was quoted as saying

“That lack of any safe place has created a general sense of fear and horror among the entire population and children are most impacted,” said Abu Heen.

“Some of them reacted directly and expressed their fears. Although they may need immediate intervention, they may be in a better state than the other kids who kept the horror and trauma inside them,” he said.

Tahreer Tabash, a mother of six children sheltering in a school said that they were not safe.

“Our children suffer a lot at night. They cry all night,” she said.

Such schools have been hit several times, the UN has said, and Tabash has seen strikes hitting nearby buildings.

 “When there’s an explosion or any target getting hit nearby they are always screaming, always frightened,” said Ibrahim Al-Agha, an engineer.“They will need a lot of support mentally after this war finishes,” Agha said.

Children across Gaza are living under near constant bombardment with many packed into temporary shelters in UN-run schools after fleeing their homes with little food or clean water.

Mental health experts have long warned of the terrible toll that was already being exacted on children.

At least 1,873 children killed by Israel in Gaza

The death toll in Gaza due to Israel's ongoing bombardment has climbed to 4,651, including 1,873 children, the Health Ministry in the besieged enclave said Sunday.

In a statement, Ashraf Qudra, a ministry spokesman, said that 1,023 women were also among the people killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since Oct. 7.

Meanwhile, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) reported on Saturday that Israeli military forces had killed hundreds of children during the ongoing aggression on Gaza.

In a press statement, the rights group highlighted in a press statement that Palestinian children, who have survived the intense Israeli bombardment throughout Gaza, are suffering from a severe humanitarian crisis.

This exacerbates the psychological and emotional traumas that have been building up for the past 16 years due to the Israeli blockade and military attacks on the enclave, it added.

The trauma experienced by Gaza's children extends beyond personal suffering, DCIP noted.

“Witnessing the deaths of other children further exacerbates their ordeal, leaving indelible scars on their mental well-being. Additionally, the complete decimation of entire families in an instant shatters the foundation of these households.

“Children, who once found security and comfort in their family's embrace, are now orphaned,” the organization pointed out.

Hamas fighters repelled Israeli ground attack near Khan Younis

The Qassam Brigades, the Hamas resistance movement’s military wing, says it has repelled an Israeli ground attack near Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, destroying an Israeli tank and two bulldozers.

In a statement on the Telegram messaging app, the Qassam Brigades said its “fighters engaged an armored Israeli force in a well-prepared ambush to the east of Khan Yunis, just moments after it crossed the border by a few meters”.

“The fighters bravely engaged with the infiltrating force … and they returned to their bases safely,” the statement further noted.

The Israeli regime has ramped up violence in the West Bank since Hamas-led resistance groups carried out a surprise attack, called Operation al-Aqsa Storm, by firing thousands of rockets at the occupied territories on October 7.

The attack was a legitimate response to recurrent acts of violence against Palestinians and touched off an incessant onslaught by the illegal entity in the besieged Gaza Strip.


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