With more than a thousand people killed in almost a month of fighting, the top United Nations aid official in Lebanon today deplored Israeli bombardment of civilian infrastructure, condemned Hizbollah’s rocket attacks and called on all sides to adhere to their commitments under international law, especially relating to access for emergency relief supplies to the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, David Shearer, was especially critical of an attack at the weekend by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) that killed at least two Lebanese and was very close to a UN aid convoy near the city of Tyre, warning that such attacks, which have already curtailed vital emergency supply routes between the north and south of the country, could halt aid operations altogether.
“Attacks close to our convoys, such as yesterday’s, could very well prevent us from continuing our humanitarian relief efforts, as many truck drivers are no longer willing to risk their lives. The targeting of civilians and essential social infrastructure is a violation of international law,” he said in a statement. Four drivers did not turn up for work today.
“We deplore the continuation of Israeli bombardment of civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and call on all parties in this conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law with regard to civilians. We also condemn the continuing rocket attacks by Hizbollah against civilians in Israel.”
IDF bombardments have destroyed four bridges on the road from the Syrian border at Aarida to Beirut, forcing the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which is responsible for transporting all UN relief supplies into and within Lebanon, to cancel convoys and also take lengthy detours, tripling the travel time between destinations, Mr. Shearer said.
Highlighting the continued problem of dwindling fuel supplies caused by the lack of access, he also said that this could cut off power supplies within a few days, effectively preventing hospitals from functioning and closing water pumping stations. That, he warned, would precipitate a “major humanitarian crisis.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) today called on all sides in the conflict to ensure safe passage of fuel, saying that if fuel is not delivered this week, 60 per cent of all hospitals in Lebanon, along with other health facilities, will have to shut down.
"Based on available information, if there is no fuel delivered in the next few days, more than half of the hospitals will not be able to operate by the end of this week and the situation will be much worse next week," warned Dr Ala Alwan, Representative of the WHO Director-General for Health Action in Crises.
Since the conflict erupted on 12 July, around 960 Lebanese, most of them civilians, have been killed, almost 3,400 have been injured, with more than 915,000 – about one quarter of Lebanon’s population – displaced, the statement said. In Israel, 95 people have been killed, 38 of them civilians, as a result of the conflict and Hizbollah rocket attacks from Lebanon to Israel.
Despite the difficulties in getting aid through to Lebanon, the UN said that three convoys have left today to Sidon, Nabatiyeh in the south and a third is coming from Aarida to Beirut, with 11 trucks for the capital carrying various humanitarian supplies from WFP, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Also on the humanitarian front, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) today distributed hygienic kits, diapers and other emergency supplies in Beirut’s southern suburbs and elsewhere in the country.