The United Nations (UN) warned on Friday that “many more will die” in Gaza due to catastrophic shortages after nearly three weeks of Israeli bombardment in response to Hamas’ deadliest attack yet on Israeli civilians.
The UN has also sounded the alarm about “war crimes” being committed as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues for the 21st day.
There are growing concerns about the impact of the conflict on the rest of the region, with the US warning Iran against any escalation while the US has also attacked facilities in Syria that the US says were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – corps and others.
Israel has bombed Gaza heavily since Hamas gunmen stormed the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, most of them civilians. According to Israeli officials, more than 220 were kidnapped.
The health department in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip said on Friday that the attacks had already claimed 7,326 lives, most of them civilians and many of them children.
Israel, in turn, accused Hamas on Friday of using hospitals in Gaza as operational centers from which to direct attacks.
“Hamas is waging war from hospitals” in the area, said Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the army. He also argued that the Islamic group uses fuel stored at the facilities for its operations.
Israel suspended the supply of food, water and power to Gaza and also stopped all deliveries of fuel. The country claims Hamas will use the fuel to manufacture weapons and explosive devices.
“People in Gaza are dying. They don’t just die from bombs and attacks. Soon many more will die because of the consequences of the siege,” says Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
“Basic services are crumbling, medicines are running low and food and water are drying up. Sewage runs through the streets of Gaza,” says Lazzarini of the area where as much as 45% of housing is said to have been destroyed or damaged.
In Geneva, the UN office sounded the alarm about alleged war crimes by saying “the heinous attacks by Hamas amount to war crimes” while at the same time the organization referred to Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
“Nowhere in Gaza is (a person) safe. Forcing people to evacuate the area under these circumstances, while under siege, raises serious concerns about forced displacement, which is a war crime,” says Ravina Shamdasani about Israel’s order for residents of northern Gaza to flee to the south .
A humanitarian catastrophe is also unfolding in Gaza for residents “who are being punished collectively” – which is also a war crime, she says.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” to protect civilians in Gaza and also said that Israel’s response “must better target terrorists”.
The first team of six medics from the International Committee of the Red Cross visited Gaza on Friday via the Rafah border post between Gaza and Egypt. Six trucks with relief aid were also dispatched.