World, Middle East

Decimated Gaza 'living hell' for over 2M people, says UNRWA chief

'Children are dying of malnutrition and dehydration, while food and clean water wait in trucks,' says Philippe Lazzarini

Beyza Binnur Donmez  | 24.06.2024 - Update : 24.06.2024
Decimated Gaza 'living hell' for over 2M people, says UNRWA chief


Gaza has been decimated and become a "living hell" for more than 2 million people, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said Monday.

Philippe Lazzarini's remarks came in his opening address to the meeting of the agency's Advisory Commission in Geneva.

"In the last nine months, we have witnessed unprecedented failures of humanity in a territory marked by decades of violence," Lazzarini said.

Describing the situation as "a nightmare" that Gazans cannot wake, he lamented that "catastrophic levels" of hunger across the Gaza Strip are the result of human action.

"Children are dying of malnutrition and dehydration, while food and clean water wait in trucks," he said.

The breakdown of civil order has resulted in rampant looting and smuggling that impede the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid.

He also mentioned the situation in the West Bank by warning that "another tragedy is unfolding" under the shadow of Gaza as more than 500 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7.

Regarding millions of Palestine refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, Lazzarini said that most have been living in camps for generations, "often with limited rights and in grinding poverty, waiting for a political solution that will bring an end to their plight."

"Today, they are witnessing the greatest Palestinian tragedy since the Nakba," he added.

UNRWA paid 'terrible price' in Gaza

Lazzarini noted that 193 agency personnel have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, and said: "The agency has paid a terrible price."

He also warned that the agency's operational space is "shrinking" in the West Bank as arbitrary measures imposed by Israel "severely restrict" the presence and movement of staff.

"In addition to these attacks, we are witnessing a concerted effort to dismantle UNRWA with the aim of changing the established political parameters for peace in the occupied Palestinian territory," he said. "This effort includes legislative proposals that seek to undermine our operations by threatening eviction from our compound and labeling UNRWA as a terrorist organization."

He stressed that the agency is targeted because of "its role in safeguarding the rights of Palestine refugees," and because it "embodies an international commitment to a political solution."

Stressing that Israel is seeking to "end UNRWA’s operations, dismissing the agency’s status as a UN entity, Lazzarini warned: "If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system."

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