Humanitarian Crisis Unfolds in Gaza: Plight of Displaced Population Amidst Ongoing Conflict
Stockholm: Numerous displaced individuals in Gaza are currently residing "outdoors, in parks," as mentioned by Juliette Touma of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that over 100,000 people have sought refuge in Rafah, bordering Egypt to the south of Gaza, in recent days.
UNRWA's Ms. Touma indicates that the UN has been authorized to provide "limited assistance," but the humanitarian needs in Gaza have significantly increased. UNRWA faces challenges accessing certain areas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel contends that it does not restrict aid but cites issues with distribution. The offensive in Gaza was launched by Israel in response to Hamas's attack on October 7, resulting in casualties and hostages.
The death toll in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, exceeds 21,672, with 56,165 Palestinians reported injured. Humanitarian aid access in the enclave, measuring 41km long and 10km wide, has been tightly controlled.
Initially focusing on Gaza's north, Israeli forces have shifted to Khan Younis in the south, considered a Hamas stronghold. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu states that Israel is engaged on all fronts, and the war will persist until the release of hostages and the dismantlement of Hamas.
Tom White, UNRWA's Gaza director, reports over a million people seeking safety in Rafah, with limited spots available in shelters, including UNRWA schools. Hundreds of thousands are forced to sleep in the open due to overcrowding.
UNRWA's latest report estimates up to 1.9 million displaced individuals across Gaza since the war's onset. The recent wave of displacement to Rafah is attributed to intense fighting in Khan Younis and other areas.
Residents in Khan Younis report fierce gun battles between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters. Additional fighting is reported in Nuseirat refugee camp, Maghazi, and al-Bureij.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Arabic-language spokesman warns of the Salah al-Din road's dangers, describing it as a "battlefield."
The World Health Organization (WHO) expresses concerns about a rise in infectious diseases across Gaza's displaced community. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus notes increased cases of diarrhea, lice and scabies, and meningitis in UN shelters between mid-October and mid-December.