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“The scale of this Israeli attack is unprecedented”: UNRWA official

injured palestinian
Injured Palestinians are evacuated following Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Oct 26, 2023. (Photo | AP)

NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 26: As someone who has been through several military escalations in Gaza, an official of UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) in Gaza said that the present onslaught by Israel is “unprecedented”.
“Prior to the ongoing attack, Gaza has lived through five military escalations since 2008, but the scale of this war is unprecedented”, said Inas Hamdan, the Public Information Officer for UNRWA.
“Yes, things were dire during previous military escalation but again NEVER like this”, Inas Hamdan told the New Indian Express Online.
“Huge number of displaced people, severe destruction of residential buildings and infrastructure ~ we have never seen this much, catastrophic destruction before”, she added.
Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip in retaliation to the Islamic militant group Hamas’ attack, referred to as Operation Al-Aqsa Flood (or Deluge), on Israel on October 7.
The Hamas attack claimed the lives of 1,200 Israelis, including women and children. Hamas took around 200 Israeli civilians and soldiers as hostages in the Gaza Strip.
Following this, in the blitz unleashed by Israel, as of October 26, 2023, over 7,000 people, including 3,000 children have been killed.
The Israeli military, according to Al Jazeera, has destroyed nearly 200,000 housing units, either completely or partially.
According to OCHA, (The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), over 1,600 people, including 900 children, have been reported missing and may be under the rubble.
Heavy Israeli bombardments continue in Gaza.
The Gaza Ministry of Public Works and Housing reported the destruction of 16,441 housing units and the rendering of 11,340 other units uninhabitable, as of October 23.
About 150,000 housing units sustained minor to moderate damage. The total number of housing units reported as destroyed or damaged accounts for at least 45% of all housing units in the Gaza Strip.
Entire neighborhoods have been wiped out, particularly in Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia, and Ash Shuja’iyeh, the area between Gaza and Ash Shati’ Refugee Camp, and Abbassan Kabeera.
As of October 19, satellite imagery produced by UNOSAT shows the large scope of destruction, OCHA said in a statement.
Inas meanwhile added that so far around 40 UNRWA installations have been hit and damaged since the war started on October 7.
“Even wars have rules. These are UN installations and must be protected by international laws even during conflicts”, she noted.
It is not just the UN installations and structures that have been destroyed. Hospitals like Al Ahli ~ where almost 500 people reportedly died ~ and residential structures are also bearing the brunt.
This has created a health crisis in Gaza, especially since the hospitals are running out of supplies while they are overrun. As the death toll is going up each day, more health facilities are needed in Gaza. And, it is nearly impossible to run these unless they get all the supplies they need.
It took two weeks, since the start of the war, to let humanitarian aid into a region that was already on the verge of collapse.
“So far 54 trucks loaded with food, medical supplies and water entered Gaza in the last three days but again this is not enough”, says Inas.
As per UNRWA reports, there are about 600,000 displaced people taking refuge at UNRWA installations. In addition, more than 6000 were killed and thousands injured. Aid organizations like UNRWA working in Gaza can’t keep going with the amount of aid that is currently let into the Gaza Strip.
Inas says, “What we got is NOT enough for extending the much-needed humanitarian support.”
Earlier during the week, UN General Secretary Guterres said that what is now being provided is a drop of aid in an ocean of need for the people in Gaza, stressing the importance of humanitarian aid in Gaza.
Aid workers like Inas believe that calling for an immediate ceasefire and lifting the imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip ~ which they have been under for the past 16 years ~ is important in Gaza’s current unstable situation. Guaranteed, sustainable and regular access to humanitarian aid is what they are hoping for.
Gazans have been living without electricity and water for more than two weeks. UN and aid organizations have warned multiple times that fuel shortage in Gaza might force them to stop their activities in the Strip.
“As the internet connection is very poor, We, as UNRWA staff, find it difficult to stay in contact. Nevertheless, our staff keep working tirelessly on the ground to ensure delivering humanitarian support to both displaced people as well as refugees whom UNRWA is here to serve”, Inas said.
(Courtesy: TNIE)