Palestinian civilians paying the price for failure to end Gaza war, UN says

Up to 810,000 people have been displaced from Rafah since Israel's operations began in the southern region

An injured Palestinian boy stands next to the rubble of a family house that was hit overnight in Israeli bombardment in the Tal Al Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah in southern Gaza. AFP
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Palestinian civilians are "paying the price" while a solution to end the war in Gaza remains up in the air, the UN's humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said on Monday, hours after Israeli strikes killed dozens across the enclave.

“Civilians are paying the very highest price every single day, today perhaps even more than other days, while we failed to reach consensus on solution,” the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator said in an address to a security conference in Qatar.

Mr Griffith emphasised that hundreds of thousands of Gazans are "serially" searching for safety as "hunger and the threat of disease continue to escalate".

At least 810,000 people have been forcibly displaced again from Rafah to other areas, after having fled to the southern region in previous months, the UN says.

"Every time families are displaced, their lives are at serious risk. People are forced to leave everything behind looking for safety. But there's no safe zone," the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said on X.

About 1.5 million of Gaza's 2.3 million people had been sheltering in Rafah before Israel began its offensive against the area this month. Before the war began in October, the city had an estimated population of about 300,000, but it swelled as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled fighting in northern and central Gaza.

On Monday, Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced the army was expanding its operations in Rafah, after Israel said it would be conducting limited incursions in the city.

Mr Gallant made the comments during talks with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Tel Aviv.

The US has opposed a fully fledged invasion of Rafah, citing the high number of civilian casualties that will result from such a move.

“I emphasised to him [Mr Sullivan] Israel’s duty to expand the ground operation in Rafah, to dismantle Hamas and to return the hostages,” Mr Gallant said.

War Cabinet member Benny Gantz has threatened to quit if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not offer a plan for postwar Gaza by June 8.

At least 70 people have been killed in overnight strikes and shelling across Gaza on the 227th day of the war, local health authorities said on Monday.

The Al Awda Hospital in Jabalia in the north is on its second day under siege – as the refugee camp there remains under attack by Israeli forces.

About 300 homes have been destroyed across Jabalia since Israeli forces began an operation in the camp this month, civil defence personnel said, adding that dozens of people are still missing, presumed to be under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Israeli tanks entered the camp in mid-May as hundreds of leaflets were dropped from the sky, with "we are coming" written in Arabic.

Health authorities have warned of severe shortages in medicine and medical consumables to provide emergency care, perform operations, first aid and other services Al Awda.

Meanwhile, shelling continued in Gaza city and Rafah, where dozens, including a one-year-old child, were killed, state news agency Wafa reported.

Gunboats also fired from the coast of Rafah into the Gaza Strip, Wafa said.

More than 35,500 people have been killed since the war began on October 7. Nearly 80,000 people have been injured, with many being denied medical assistance, food and water as the Rafah border crossing with Egypt remains closed.

Thousands more are missing under the rubble of flattened buildings across the strip, where much of the basic infrastructure has been destroyed.

Updated: May 20, 2024, 12:08 PM