Any attempt to alter Gaza demographics must be 'firmly rejected', UN aid chief says

World body estimates up to 85 percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced

Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip as Israel's siege continues. AP
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The UN's aid chief warned the Security Council on Friday that any attempt to alter the demographic composition of Gaza must be “firmly rejected”.

“We are deeply alarmed by recent statements by Israeli ministers regarding plans to encourage the mass transfer of civilians from Gaza to third countries, currently being referred to as 'voluntary relocation',” said Martin Griffiths.

“These statements raise grave concerns about the possible forcible mass transfer or deportation of the Palestinian population from the Gaza Strip, something that would be strictly prohibited under international law.”

He added that the situation in Gaza remains “horrific as relentless Israeli military operations continue” and reiterated his call for the council to take “urgent action to bring this war to an end”.

“Dignified human life is a near impossibility,” he said.

Providing humanitarian assistance across Gaza is “almost impossible”, Mr Griffiths added.

In a letter to the Security Council earlier this month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that more than 60 per cent of homes in the Gaza Strip are estimated to have been damaged or destroyed.

He also expressed concern about rampant hunger and thirst in Gaza, with more than half a million people facing “what experts classify as catastrophic levels of hunger”.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) estimates up to 85 per cent of Gaza’s population – nearly 1.9 million people – have been displaced, many of them several times.

The UN representative from Algeria, which requested the meeting to discuss the threat of forced displacement of Palestinians, told council members what is happening in Gaza will remain a “disgrace on the conscience of humanity”.

Amar Bendjama accused Israel of seeking to kill the “hope of returning home” for Palestinian civilians.

“Plans of forced displacement are unfolding now throughout the Palestinian territory through bombardment and destruction, and through settlement and annexation,” he said.

Mr Bendjama urged the international community to speak with one strong voice against the displacement of Palestinians.

“Silence is complicity,” he told council members.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said the logic behind Israel’s strategy is to make life unbearable in the Gaza Strip, leaving civilians with an impossible choice: leave or be killed .

“The ongoing violent expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and from Gaza will inevitably shake the entire Middle East and North African region with dire consequences for the whole world,” he warned.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied they have plans to forcibly move the Palestinian population from Gaza and the West Bank.

The Russian official also accused Washington and its allies of “singlehandedly” triggering a spillover of the Israel Gaza conflict to the entire region after last night’s strikes on Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, unequivocally rejected statements by some Israeli ministers and politicians calling for a resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.

But she again questioned why some council members refused to condemn Hamas for the “horrific terrorist attack on October 7" and for its breaches of international law, including the use of human shields.

The US is one of Israel's staunchest allies and has used its veto power on the council to block resolutions calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

The council convened mere hours after Israel rejected as false and "grossly distorted" accusations brought by South Africa at the UN International Criminal Court (ICC) that its actions constitute a state-directed genocide against Palestinians.

Desperate Gazans scramble to secure bags of food from aid lorries – video

Desperate Gazans scramble to secure bags of food from aid lorries

Desperate Gazans scramble to secure bags of food from aid lorries
Updated: January 13, 2024, 12:50 AM