Protect Civilians in Gaza, UNRWA Issues Urgent Appeal

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A school run by the UN agency sheltering more than 225 displaced people, including many families, in the Gaza Strip was directly hit by Israeli bombs.

BEIRUT — The UN Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA) on Saturday issued an urgent call for Israeli authorities to protect all civilians sheltering in Gaza.

The statement came as the Israeli-imposed deadline for some 1.1 million civilians to leave the northern part of the enclave expired.

“UNRWA shelters in Gaza and northern Gaza are no longer safe. This is unprecedented,” said the statement. 

The agency reminded that according to the rules of warfare, civilians, hospitals, schools, clinics and United Nations premises cannot be a target.

“UNRWA is sparing no efforts to advocate with parties to the conflicts to meet their obligations under international law to protect civilians, including those seeking refuge in UNRWA shelters,” the agency emphasised.  

It pointed out that many of the vulnerable, particularly pregnant women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities simply will be unable to flee south.

“They have no choice and must be protected at all times.”

On Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said it would be “impossible” for civilians in Gaza to comply with the evacuation order without devastating humanitarian consequences.

The UN chief called on the world to unite in support of the fundamental principle of protecting civilians, and “finding a lasting solution to this unending cycle of death and destruction.”

A UNRWA school sheltering more than 225 displaced people, including many families, in the Gaza Strip was directly hit, sustaining severe damages, but no casualties were reported then.

Meanwhile, a plane carrying life-saving health supplies from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) logistics hub in Dubai landed in Egypt on Saturday to aid civilians in Gaza – as soon as access across the border into the enclave can be established.

The shipment includes trauma medicines, healthcare essentials, and equipment sufficient to treat around 1,200 who have suffered injuries during the bombing raids and around 1,500 chronically ill patients.

The cargo also includes basic health supplies to meet the needs of 300,000 others, including pregnant women.

With hospitals in Gaza either completely out of action or simply overwhelmed, the supplies will help save the lives of the wounded wherever they can find shelter, WHO said. 

It said it was critical for the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border to be reopened. “While the Egyptian side of the crossing is accessible, the Israeli side remains closed”, said the statement. 

“Every hour these supplies remain on the Egyptian side of the border, more girls and boys, women, and men, especially those vulnerable or disabled, will die while supplies that can save them are less than 20 kilometres (12 miles) away.”

WHO said it would be working with the Egyptian and Palestinian Red Crescent Societies to ship the supplies across the border into Gaza, as soon as practicable. — Agencies

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Photo: Israeli armoured personnel carriers are seen on the move near the Gaza border on Saturday. — AFP

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