Middle East

Head of UN agency for Palestinians calls for cease-fire in Gaza

‘History will ask why the world did not have the courage to act decisively and stop this hell on Earth,’ says Philippe Lazzarini

Rania R.a. Abushamala  | 26.10.2023 - Update : 26.10.2023
Head of UN agency for Palestinians calls for cease-fire in Gaza A view of the area in the city of Khan Yunis, Gaza where some buildings collapsed or heavily damaged in Israeli airstrikes on October 26, 2023. Civilians tried to save victims of the attacks trapped under rubble.

LONDON

The residents of Gaza need a cease-fire now to ensure their continued survival from a siege that has deprived them of the bare necessities of life, said the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees or UNRWA on Thursday. 

Philippe Lazzarini, the agency’s commissioner-general, also condemned the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, which have been going on for 20 days, and the dire situation they have led to.

Writing in Britain’s The Guardian on Thursday, Lazarini said, “An immediate humanitarian ceasefire must be enacted to allow safe, continuous and unrestricted access to fuel, medicine, water and food in the Gaza Strip,” referring to the siege Israel has imposed on the strip for weeks now, cutting off water, electricity, and humanitarian and medical supplies.

He added: “For more than two weeks now, unbearable images of human tragedy have come out of Gaza. History will ask why the world did not have the courage to act decisively and stop this hell on Earth.”

He explained: “Gaza has been described over the last 15 years as a large open-air prison, with an air, sea and land blockade choking 2.2 million people within 365 sq km (140 square miles). Today, this prison is becoming the graveyard of a population trapped between war, siege and deprivation.”

“Nearly 600,000 people are sheltering in 150 schools and other UNRWA buildings, living in unsanitary conditions with limited clean water, little food and medicines,” he said.

Lazzarini also condemned the Israeli military's warnings to the residents of Gaza, saying the Israeli army has “been warning Palestinians in Gaza to move to the southern part of the strip as it bombs the north; but the strikes also continue in the south. There is nowhere safe in Gaza.”

“Mothers do not know how they can clean their children. Pregnant women pray that they will not face complications during delivery because hospitals have no capacity to receive them,” he said

Lazzarini also stressed that Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7 “does not justify the ongoing crimes against the civilian population of Gaza, including its 1 million children.”

Nearly three weeks into the relentless campaign of Israeli airstrikes, at least 7,028 Palestinians have been killed, along with 1,400 Israelis killed in the conflict, according to official figures.

Officials and residents of Gaza have decried the Israeli airstrikes hitting residences, hospitals, and houses of worship, acts prohibited under international rules of war.

The conflict in Gaza began on Oct. 7 when the Palestinian group Hamas initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood – a multi-pronged surprise attack that included a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel by land, sea, and air.

Hamas said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and growing violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.

The Israeli military then launched a relentless bombardment of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been running out of food, water, medicine, and fuel, and aid convoys recently allowed into Gaza have carried only a fraction of what is needed.  

*Writing by Rania Abu Shamala​​​​​​​

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