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UNRWA chief warns situation in Gaza remains akin to 'hell on earth'

Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip, November 10, 2023 (Photo by AP)

The chief of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has described the current conditions in Gaza as the worst he's ever seen. 

Philippe Lazzarini said in remarks on Sunday that his agency was on the verge of collapsing in Gaza, adding that an immediate ceasefire was needed to end "hell on earth" there.

The UNRWA chief further said the "dehumanization" of Palestinians had allowed the international community to tolerate the continued Israeli attacks in the besieged territory.

He urged all UN member states to "take immediate actions to implement an immediate humanitarian cease-fire."

“People are coming to the UN to seek protection, but even the blue flag is not protected anymore. By any account, the situation has reached a catastrophic nature,” he added.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled northern Gaza on foot as Israeli forces push deeper into dense urban neighborhoods and attack hospitals where residents have been sheltering.

A never-ending stream of people including many children, the wounded, and the elderly were seen moving south, mostly on foot, carrying only small backpacks and essential belongings.

Israel has repeatedly targeted and attacked civilians who are making their way to the south.

The Israeli military says more than 100,000 Palestinians have moved from the north to the south of Gaza in the last two days.

The UN’s humanitarian office has said it is unable to deliver aid trucks to the north of Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people still reside.

Israel ordered the evacuation of the northern third of the territory, including Gaza City, early in the war, but tens of thousands of people are believed to have remained there, fearing that the south would be no safer or that they would never be allowed to return to their homes.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, recently called for an investigation into what he called Israel’s use of “high-impact explosive weapons” in Gaza. He said the use of such weapons was causing indiscriminate destruction in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

The UN said earlier this week that at least 1.5 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have fled their homes since the war began.

WHO chief says Gaza health care situation 'catastrophic'

Also on Sunday, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that improving the health care situation in Gaza is "almost impossible" amid Israel's ongoing offensive.

"It's stating the obvious to say that the impact of the conflict on health is catastrophic," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that health workers were doing an impossible job in unimaginable conditions.

"In summary, health needs have increased dramatically, and the capacity of the health system has been reduced to one-third of what it was," said Tedros.

Israeli forces continue to face heavy resistance despite more US support 

The United States has lent vital support to the offensive once again in recent days, by vetoing United Nations Security Council efforts to end the fighting that enjoyed wide international support. They have also pushed through an emergency sale of over $100 million (€93m) worth of tank ammunition to Israel.

The US has pledged unwavering support for Israeli aggression on Gaza.

But Israeli forces continue to face heavy resistance, even in northern Gaza, where entire neighborhoods have been flattened by air strikes and where troops have been operating for over six weeks.

The developments come as there’s no sign of a let-up in the Israeli regime’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip. In its latest strikes, the Israeli military targeted a home in Jabalia in the north of the coastal sliver, killing at least 39 people.

Israeli warplanes also carried out fierce attacks on several other Palestinian refugee camps, including in the southern city of Khan Yunis, which has been under heavy artillery fire as well.

More than two months into the Israeli genocide in Gaza, civilian areas and infrastructure, including over 190 mosques, have been destroyed despite worldwide condemnation. The death toll from the Israeli strikes has now topped 17,700, mostly women and children.

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