World, Middle East

UN says 4,200 people killed in Israel, Gaza conflict in 10 days

Death toll includes many women and children, as well as at least 11 Palestinian journalists, 28 medical staff, and 14 UN colleagues, she says at UN press conference

Peter Kenny  | 17.10.2023 - Update : 17.10.2023
UN says 4,200 people killed in Israel, Gaza conflict in 10 days


The United Nations said on Tuesday that a “staggering” 4,200 people have been killed and more than one million have been displaced in 10 days in Israel and the Gaza Strip, which is under siege, affecting water supply, food, medicine, and other basic needs of the people.

UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said at a UN press conference that Israel’s military operations show no signs of abating, and that “the continued siege on Gaza” is affecting water supply, food, medicine, and other basic needs.

“With a staggering 4,200 people killed, over one million people displaced in just 10 days, and large areas in the Gaza Strip reduced to rubble, we have grave fears about the toll on civilians in the coming days,” said Shamdasani.

“And there are daily indications of violations of the laws of war and international human rights law,” she added.

The death toll includes many women and children, as well as at least 11 Palestinian journalists, 28 medical staff, and 14 UN staff, she added.

“It remains unclear how many more bodies may be buried in the rubble – with many families missing loved ones, terrified about their uncertain fate.”

Shamdasani said the UN urges the Israeli forces to avoid targeting civilians and civilian objects, as well as conducting aerial bombardments, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks, and to take precautions to prevent civilian deaths and injuries.

199 Israeli hostages

“The latest reports indicate that around 199 Israelis are held hostages by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. And once again, we urge Palestinian armed groups to immediately and unconditionally release all civilian hostages and to halt the use of inherently indiscriminate projectiles against Israel,” said the UN rights office spokesperson.

Shamdasani could not confirm reports that Israel used phosphorus weapons in Gaza, which Tel Aviv denies despite numerous videos shared on social media platform X that clearly show the use of lethal chemicals by Israeli forces.

Abeer Etefa, the World Food Program’s senior communications officer in the Middle East, said that current stocks of essential food commodities are sufficient only for about two weeks.

"At the shop level, the available stock will last for less than a week," Etefa said, speaking via video at the press conference.

“The warehouses are located in Gaza City, and there are difficulties when distributing food products, especially to the southern region.”

She said that out of five mills in the Gaza Strip, only one mill is operational due to security concerns and the unavailability of fuel and electricity.

“So, the bread supply is running short. Few bakeries continue to operate. People are lining up for hours to get bread,” she added.

Water a crucial issue

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) said in a report that water remains a crucial issue as people will start dying without water.

“Concerns over dehydration and waterborne diseases are high given the collapse of water and sanitation services, including today’s shutdown of Gaza’s last functioning seawater desalination plant,” said the UNWRA report.

The UN agency said that 14 of its staff members had been killed since Oct. 7 and that the number is likely higher.

Eleven days into the conflict with Palestinian group Hamas, Israel's bombardment and blockade of the Gaza Strip has continued, with over one million people displaced – almost half of Gaza's total population, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The fighting began when Hamas on Oct. 7 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. It said the incursion was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and increased violence by Israeli settlers.

The Israeli military then launched Operation Swords of Iron against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's response has extended into cutting water and electricity supplies to Gaza, further worsening the living conditions in an area that has reeled under a crippling siege since 2007.

According to an unofficial tally more than 2,800 Palestinians, including 750 children, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, while the death toll from such Israeli attacks in the West Bank has reached 60.

At least 1,400 Israelis have been killed in the ongoing armed conflict.

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