TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A group of United Nations experts has issued a dire warning that time is running out to prevent a ‘genocide and humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza.
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They expressed deep frustration with Israel’s refusal to halt its plans to decimate the besieged Gaza Strip.
“We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide,” the experts said. “The time for action is now. Israel’s allies also bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action,” they said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The experts expressed “deepening horror” about Israeli airstrikes against the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza since Tuesday night, which have reportedly killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians, calling it a brazen breach of international law.
“The Israeli airstrike on a residential complex in the Jabalia refugee camp is a brazen violation of international law – and a war crime. Attacking a camp sheltering civilians including women and children is a complete breach of the rules of proportionality and distinction between combatants and civilians,” the experts said.
“The Palestinian people in Gaza, particularly women, children, persons with disabilities, youth, and older persons, have endured decades of hardship and deprivation,” said the experts, including several UN special rapporteurs on the rights to food, safe drinking water, and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“We call on Israel and its allies to agree to an immediate ceasefire. We are running out of time.”
Elsewhere in the statement, the experts welcomed the General Assembly resolution on protecting civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations, approved by an overwhelming majority of member states on 27 October.
“We received the resolution with hope, but the need for action is now,” they said.
“All signs are that we have reached a breaking point,” the experts warned, pointing to images of people desperately grabbing flour and other essentials from a UN warehouse on Sunday.
They were also alarmed at the news of children being forced to drink sea water in the absence of clean water, distressing reports of patients including children undergoing surgery without anesthetics, and persons with disabilities and older persons displaced and living in tents because houses have been turned to rubble.
“The situation in Gaza has reached a catastrophic tipping point,” they said, warning of the dire need for food, water, medicine, fuel, and essential supplies and the risk of looming health hazards.
The absence of fuel and disruption of water infrastructure due to constant shelling over three weeks had destroyed access to safe drinking water for the population in Gaza, they said.
“Water is essential to human life, and today, 2 million Gazans are struggling to find drinking water,” they said.
The experts strongly supported the UN chief’s efforts to provide access to humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip.
They expressed grave concern about the safety of UN and humanitarian workers and hospitals and schools that are providing refuge and life-saving medical services to the people of Gaza.
An estimated 1.4 million people in Gaza are internally displaced, with approximately 629,000 seeking refuge in 150 UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) emergency shelters. The UNRWA reports that 70 UN workers have died as a result of Israeli bombardment in Gaza.
Their statement also echoed the UN Human Rights Office in saying that recent Israeli attacks on Jabalia refugee camp constitute “a brazen violation of international law – and a war crime”.
Also on Thursday, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said the forced evacuation of hospitals in the Gaza Strip would put the lives of hundreds of patients at risk as he called the situation on the ground “indescribable”.
“Twenty-three hospitals have been ordered to evacuate in Gaza City and north Gaza, and forced evacuation in these circumstances would put the lives of hundreds of patients in a life-threatening situation,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in the Swiss city of Geneva.
Tedros also reiterated the call for a humanitarian pause in the Israeli war on Gaza to help the thousands injured, as well as the chronically sick. “We’re running out of words to describe the horror unfolding in Gaza.”
The situation in Gaza was “indescribable,” Tedros added, with hospitals crammed, morgues overflowing, and doctors performing surgery without anesthesia, as families sought shelter and toilets overflowed, risking the spread of disease.
Emergencies director Dr Mike Ryan said the UN agency was struggling to help as it could not guarantee the safety of staff. “We have never found it as difficult to establish the basic rules of engagement that would allow us to act in a proper humanitarian fashion.”
He said any international staff or field hospitals entering Gaza would need safety guarantees, and to run alongside the existing system to be effective. “We will not be instrumentalized in this. We will not become a party to this… Our job is to save lives. That is our only job.”
The UN chief has decried the Israeli regime’s relentless raids on Gaza. Antonio Guterres said he is appalled by the killing of Palestinians, including women and children, in Israel’s airstrikes on Jabalia. Since October 7, attacks on Gaza have claimed the lives of over 9,000 Palestinians, including more than 3,700 children.