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UNRWA calls for Gaza ceasefire to end 'decimation' of Palestinian lives

UN sees 'promising signs' of Gaza aid access via Israel

By AFP - Dec 09,2023 - Last updated at Dec 09,2023

A photo taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on Saturday, shows smoke rising during an Israeli strike in Gaza amid ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza (AFP photo)

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories — The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to end the "decimation" of Palestinian lives there.

Philippe Lazzarini urged, in a statement on Friday, all UN member states to take "actions to implement an immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza.

"It is the opposite. It is a recognition of the equal rights of all people."

In addition to the thousands killed in the fighting, vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to a wasteland.

The UN says about 80 per cent of the population has been displaced and is facing dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine, along with the growing threat of disease.

On Friday, Hamas pointed the finger in part at UNRWA, accusing it of “humiliating” the population by not distributing flour in some areas, or too slowly in others.

“We have noticed a deliberate slowdown by UNRWA, as if it does not want to put an end to the flour distribution crisis,” the Islamist group said.

In the same statement, Hamas also went on to call for a ceasefire.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Friday that nearly 17,500 people, mostly women and children, had been killed by the war so far.

Warning of an imminent breakdown of social order in Gaza, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said a “humanitarian ceasefire” is needed to prevent “a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians” and the entire Middle East.

Guterres has convened an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday for a vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, UN Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths said he saw promising signs on Thursday that a major crossing from Israel into Gaza might be opened soon to allow in aid.

The Kerem Shalom checkpoint was responsible for 60 per cent of goods getting into the besieged Palestinian territory before October 7. 

Griffiths said that in recent days there had been signs that Israel and Gaza’s key neighbour Egypt have become much more open to the idea of gradually reopening Kerem Shalom.

The crossing sits on the triple border between Israel, Gaza and Egypt.

“We’re still negotiating, and with some promising signs at the moment” that access through Kerem Shalom would soon be possible, Griffiths told a press conference in Geneva.

But Israel poured cold water on the idea of fully reopening the crossing, telling AFP following Griffiths’s comments that it would only allow aid truck inspections there, before directing supplies towards the Rafah Crossing, between Egypt and Gaza.

“We will allow a security check of humanitarian aid trucks at the Kerem Shalom crossing, but not trucks crossing to Gaza,” said a spokesman for the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, COGAT.

An Israeli siege has seen only limited supplies of food, water, fuel and medicines enter the Gaza Strip, triggering dire shortages.

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt is the only one currently open for aid to flow into Gaza.

“We have been arguing for the opening of Kerem Shalom... to go straight through Kerem Shalom up into the northern parts of Gaza, or wherever the need is greatest,” Griffiths said.

“If we get that, it will be the first miracle we’ve seen for some weeks, but it will be a huge boost to the logistical process... it would change the nature of humanitarian access.”


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