The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for “immediate” humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip to aid those affected by Israel’s bombing campaign against the enclave, including nearly 250,000 children in need of health services.
“UNICEF calls for an immediate end to humanitarian hostilities in order to provide access to vital personnel and supplies, including fuel, medical supplies, first aid kits and vaccines against COVID-19,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore .
“We are also calling for humanitarian corridors to be set up so that we can safely deliver these supplies, so families can come back together and access vital services, and the sick or injured can be evacuated,” he said.
Fore, who pointed out that among the 220 or so children killed in the bombings, there are around 60 children, has stated that “one million children in Gaza are suffering from the growing effects of the violent conflict and are no longer safe anywhere”. “Lives have been lost and families have been destroyed,” he complained.
He also stressed that “around 30,000” children were displaced by the bombings, which also affected “essential infrastructure” in the enclave, including “at least four health facilities and 40 schools” that have suffered material damage.
“About 48 schools, most of which are run by the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA), are used as emergency shelters for families fleeing violence,” he said.
“The already weakened water and sanitation systems have been further compromised as a result of this recent escalation of violence,” he warned, before adding that around 325,000 people “require emergency water and sanitation services, without which they are more likely to get life without impending infectious diseases.”
In this regard, he noted that “Gaza’s electricity generation has been reduced by about 60 percent, making hospitals increasingly dependent on generators to provide essential health services.”
“These generators require significant amounts of fuel to operate. A reduction in health capacity could also jeopardize the treatment of people with COVID-19,” Fore said.
Finally, he argued that “every day that the conflict prolongs the suffering of the children of the entire State of Palestine and Israel”. “Children who need a ceasefire now and a long-term political solution to the conflict in general. They deserve a lot more than this terrible cycle of violence and fear that has lasted too long,” he said.
Gaza authorities have confirmed the deaths of 217 people, including 63 minors, in the bomb attacks on the enclave. Add to this the deaths of twelve people in Israel – including one Indian woman and two Thais – and that of more than 20 Palestinians in the West Bank as part of the repression of recent mobilizations condemning the offensive against Gaza and incidents in Jerusalem.
Tensions escalated on May 9 when Israeli forces again stormed the esplanade of the mosques – a place known by Jews as the Temple Mount – and even fired tear gas inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place for Muslims.
Hamas then launched several projectiles against Jerusalem and its surroundings and prompted Israel to respond with a bombing campaign against the enclave, to which Palestinian factions responded by increasing their rocket fire despite mediation attempts from Egypt and other countries.
The rise in fighting was followed by an increase in clashes between Jews and Muslims in several cities in Israel and the West Bank, including beatings and lynching attempts, which raised large-scale alarms about the possibility of civil war.