'We need a humanitarian ceasefire': UN says destruction and death in Gaza must stop

Unicef's executive director warned that the Palestinian enclave is once again the most dangerous place to be a child

Palestinians inspect the destruction of buildings following Israeli airstrikes in the refugee camp in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on December 1, 2023. AFP
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The UN has said that fighting in Gaza must end after Israeli strikes killed dozens of Palestinians, including children and women, following the failure to extend a truce with Hamas.

The Gaza Health Ministry said that 178 Palestinians had been killed and 589 injured in Israeli strikes on Friday, hours after the temporary truce expired.

More than 15,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed during eight weeks of war. The toll is likely to be much higher, with the Ministry reporting that thousands more are dead under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

The UN says 1.7 million people in Gaza have been displaced with water, food, medicine, and other essentials in short supply.

“Almost two months into the fighting, the children, women and men of Gaza are all terrified,” said Martin Griffiths, under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator.

“They have nowhere safe to go and very little to survive on. They live surrounded by disease, destruction, and death,” he added.

“This is unacceptable. We need a humanitarian ceasefire. We need the fighting to stop.”

The seven-day truce negotiated by Qatar and Egypt expired despite international pressure to extend it or reach a permanent ceasefire.

On Friday, Washington blamed Hamas for the breakdown in talks to extend the pause in fighting, saying that the US was working on resuming the entry of aid into Gaza, but that Hamas needed to produce a list of hostages that would be released.

During the temporary truce, Hamas released 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons. Aid also flowed more freely into Gaza. Hamas released another 25 hostages, most of them Thai citizens, under a separate agreement.

“The past week offered us a glimpse of what can happen when the guns fall silent,” said Griffiths. But “in a matter of hours” after the war resumed, “scores were reportedly killed and injured. Families were told to evacuate, again. Hopes were dashed.”

Israel launched its full-scale war on Gaza following the Hamas attacks that killed about 1,200 Israelis on October 7.

The truce brought relief, but Gazans were reminded of their harsh situation as the fighting resumed.

Gaza hospitals reported that they have received the bodies of 178 people since Friday morning, in addition to 589 wounded, Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported. More than 54 people were killed in the town of Beit Lahia in Israeli air strikes on Friday.

The bodies of 30 people, mostly children and women, who were killed in air strikes in Gaza city were also brought to the Baptist Hospital in Gaza. Hospitals in the south also received dozens of casualties.

Wafa news agency reported Israel’s “warplanes, artillery, and boats continued to bomb several sites in the Gaza Strip, most notably in Khan Younis (south),” early on Saturday. The Israeli army said it had struck more than 200 targets on Friday.

Catherine Russell, executive director of Unicef, warned that Gaza is once again “the most dangerous place in the world to be a child”.

“Before the pause, more than 5,300 Palestinian children were reportedly killed in 48 days of relentless bombing – a figure that does not include many children still missing and presumed to be buried under rubble,” she added.

“Should violence return to this scale and intensity, we can assume that hundreds more children will be killed and injured every day.”

Updated: December 02, 2023, 7:12 AM