Middle East

Israel's so-called 'safe zone' proposal in southern Gaza 'recipe for disaster': WHO chief

Tedros urges UN member states to take action, saying talk, resolutions 'not enough' to solve crisis in Gaza Strip

Beyza Binnur Donmez  | 17.11.2023 - Update : 18.11.2023
Israel's so-called 'safe zone' proposal in southern Gaza 'recipe for disaster': WHO chief


The World Health Organization (WHO) chief on Friday called Israel's proposal for a so-called "safe zone" in Al-Mawasi in the southern Gaza Strip a "recipe for disaster."

"Attempting to cram so many people into such a small area with such little infrastructure or services will significantly increase risks to health for people who are already on the brink," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a virtual address to a UN General Assembly meeting on Gaza in New York.

Tedros underscored that the WHO will not participate in the establishment of any so-called "safe zone" in Gaza "without broad agreement, and unless fundamental conditions are in place to ensure safety and other essential needs are met, and a mechanism is in place to supervise its implementation."

He also stressed the need for immediate action, saying: "The crisis in Gaza is a crisis for the UN, and a crisis for humanity. Talk is not enough. Resolutions are not enough. Statements are not enough."

He added: "You must act, and you must act now."

The "safe zone" proposal seems to answer the question of Israel's intentions for Gaza after ordering the mass displacement of northern Gazans to go to the south, but due to the reasons cited by Tedros, especially the small size of the area for over 2.2 million people, the proposal is certain to face fierce criticism.

The WHO chief reiterated his condemnation of attacks by Hamas that killed 1,200 Israeli people, calling them "totally unjustifiable".

"With at least 11,500 Gazans killed, 70% of them women and children; with 1.7 million people displaced; with two-thirds of Gaza's hospitals out of action; with no electricity, no fuel, no clean water, no food; with every bomb that kills or maims a child; with every family buried beneath the rubble of its own home," he said.

"The scale of Israel's response appears increasingly unjustifiable," Tedros underscored. "We are not on one side or the other. We are on the side of humanity."

Regarding the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, he said that even if Hamas has used the hospital for military purposes as Israel claimed, it "must be enabled to function as a hospital."

Since Israel started bombarding Gaza on Oct. 7, more than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed, including 8,300 women and children, and 30,000 others have been injured, according to the latest figures.

Thousands of buildings, including hospitals, mosques, and churches, have also been damaged or destroyed in Israel’s relentless air and ground attacks on the besieged enclave.

An Israeli blockade also cut Gaza off from fuel, electricity and water supplies, and reduced aid deliveries to a small trickle.

The Israeli death toll, meanwhile, is around 1,200, according to official figures.

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