The level of human loss and destruction in Gaza as a result of the ongoing conflict with Israel has been “immense,” the United Nations agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees said today, noting that eight days of hostilities has claimed 174 lives and injured well over 1,100 people.
“The numbers are increasing by the hour,” Sami Mshasha, from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told a news conference in Geneva.
“We also notice that a good number of those killed and injured are women and children, and that is a cause of concern for UNRWA,” he said, speaking by phone from Jerusalem.
Mr. Mshasha added that 560 homes were completely destroyed and thousands of other buildings damaged in Israeli airstrikes.
Since the latest hostilities began a week ago, senior UN officials and the Security Council have called on the parties to de-escalate the situation, restore calm, and reinstitute the November 2012 ceasefire that ended eight days of violence in Gaza and Israel.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Sunday, has expressed his full support for the Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire agreement.
“He is deeply worried that the fighting has not stopped, despite Israel’s readiness to accept the ceasefire proposal and the Palestinian Authority’s support,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.
“He calls on Hamas to cooperate with the Egyptian initiative, and urges all sides to build on this opening of a diplomatic channel. All parties must respect international humanitarian law.”
Mr. Haq added that the UN will in the meantime continue providing much-needed emergency humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
UNRWA said it is extremely worried that if the ceasefire being negotiated does not succeed, an Israeli ground offensive and military incursion into Gaza will take place, bringing more death and destruction.
“There is a high level of anticipation for the ceasefire to take effect today or tomorrow, and if it doesn’t, I am afraid that the civilians in Gaza will end up paying again the ultimate price,” said Mr. Mshasha.
UNWRA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl visits one of the UNRWA schools that served as shelter for the people fleeing the northern parts of the Gaza Strip. Credit: UNRWA/UNIFEED