A United Nations official warned Monday that the expansion of the scope of Israeli military operations in Gaza to the south of the Strip could lead to a “more terrifying scenario” that humanitarian operations may be unable to deal with.
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territories, Lynn Hastings, said that since the resumption of fighting between Israel and Hamas on December 1 after a seven-day truce, “Israeli military operations have extended to southern Gaza.”
She added in a statement in Arabic that this expansion of Israeli ground operations “has forced tens of thousands of other Palestinians to seek refuge in areas facing increasing pressure, where they are desperate in their efforts to find food, water, shelter and safety.”
The statement pointed out that “there is no safe place in Gaza and there is no place left to go to.”
Hastings resides in Jerusalem, but the Israeli authorities informed the United Nations that they would not renew the visa of her Canadian envoy.
The UN official said in her statement: “What we are witnessing today is embodied in shelter centers without capabilities, a collapsed health system, the lack of clean drinking water, and the absence of adequate sanitation.
Malnutrition among people who are already mentally and physically exhausted is a textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster.”
In her statement, Hastings expressed her regret that “the conditions required to deliver aid to people in Gaza do not exist. A far more terrifying scenario is about to unfold, and it is a scenario that humanitarian operations may not have the capacity to respond to, if it were to come true.”
She stressed that “the quantities of relief supplies and fuel that were allowed to enter are not sufficient at all.”
She stressed that “humanitarian operations cannot be conducted with small quantities of fuel, as it is the basis on which social services and our operations are based, including hospitals, water desalination plants, clean drinking water, and sanitation.”
She stressed that “the space available for the humanitarian response that is allowed to be provided inside Gaza is constantly shrinking.”
Calling on the Israeli forces to “avoid new actions that could exacerbate the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza” and to spare civilians in the Strip from further suffering.
For his part, spokesman for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, renewed the call for a “permanent humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza” and the release of all hostages.