By J C Nastranis
NEW YORK | 4 November 2023 (IDN) — UN Secretary-General António Guterres has reiterated his appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza war raging since 7 October. He said he was “horrified” by a strike on an ambulance convoy outside a hospital in the Gaza Strip on 4 November.
According to reports, at Al Shifa Hospital, the ambulances were evacuating critically injured and sick patients to hospitals in the south of the Gaza Strip when they were struck at the entrance of the hospital.
“I am horrified by the reported attack in Gaza on an ambulance convoy outside Al Shifa Hospital. The images of bodies strewn on the street outside the hospital are harrowing,” the UN chief said in a statement, issued late on 4 November.
He stated that he did not forget the terror attacks committed in Israel by Hamas and the killing, maiming and abductions, including of women and children. He stressed that all hostages held in Gaza must be released immediately and unconditionally.
The UN chief added that for nearly one month, civilians in Gaza, including children and women, have been besieged, denied aid, killed, and bombed out of their homes. “This must stop,” he stressed.
Nowhere is safe
He described the humanitarian situation in Gaza as “horrific”. “Not nearly enough food, water and medicine are coming in to meet people’s needs. Fuel to power hospitals and water plants is running out,” he said, noting that shelters by the UN agency assisting Palestine refugees (UNRWA) were at nearly four times their full capacity “and are being hit in bombardments”.
“Morgues are overflowing. Shops are empty. The sanitation situation is abysmal. We are seeing an increase in diseases and respiratory illnesses, especially among children. An entire population is traumatized. Nowhere is safe.”
Respect humanitarian law
Renewing his appeals for a humanitarian ceasefire, the Secretary-General underscored that international humanitarian law must be respected.
“Civilians and civilian infrastructure, including humanitarian and medical workers and assets must be protected. Civilians must also not be used as human shields,” he said, urging also that essential supplies and services, and unimpeded humanitarian access must be safely allowed into and across Gaza “at a scale commensurate with this dramatic situation”.
The UN chief urged “all those with influence must exert it to ensure respect for the rules of war, end the suffering and avoid a spillover of the conflict that could engulf the whole region”.
WHO: ‘Utterly shocked’
WHO: ‘Utterly shocked’
The head of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said he was “utterly shocked” by the strike on the ambulances.
“Utterly shocked by reports of attacks on ambulances evacuating patients close to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, leading to deaths, injuries and damage,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“We reiterate: patients, health workers, facilities, and ambulances must be protected at all times, always,” he stressed.
In a separate statement, the agency also said that attacks on healthcare, including the targeting of hospitals and restricting the delivery of essential aid such as medical supplies, fuel, and water, may amount to violations of international humanitarian law.
“WHO reiterates its call for an immediate ceasefire, emphasizing the urgent need to protect all health workers, patients, health transport, and health facilities,” the World Health chief said.
UNRWA school struck
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees in the Near East said that one of its schools in the Jabalia refugee camp was impacted by strikes Saturday (4 November) morning (local time), resulting in the reported deaths of 20 people, including children.
“At least one strike hit the school yard where there were tents for displaced families. Another strike hit inside the school where women were baking bread,” the agency said.
Dozens more are reported injured, UNRWA added, noting that it has not been able to verify the exact number of casualties.
The school is being used as an UNRWA shelter for displaced families, the agency said, adding that until 12 October, about 16,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were seeking refuge there.
United Nations Human Rights Commission of Inquiry is collecting evidence of war crimes committed by all sides in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories “when Hamas launched a complex attack (on 7 October) on Israel and Israeli forces responded with airstrikes in Gaza”, an official press release stated on 10 October
Reports that armed groups from Gaza have gunned down hundreds of unarmed civilians are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated. Taking civilian hostages and using civilians as human shields are war crimes, stated the Commission.
It expressed grave concern “with Israel’s latest attack on Gaza and Israel’s announcement” of a complete siege on Gaza involving the withholding of water, food, electricity and fuel which will doubtfully cost civilian lives and constitutes collective punishment.
The Commission is intent on ensuring legal accountability, including individual criminal and command responsibility. To that end, the Commission is committed to investigating current events and identifying those responsible for violations of international law on all sides, both those directly committing international crimes and those in positions of command responsibility.
“It will continue sharing information collected with the relevant judicial authorities, especially with the International Criminal Court, where the Office of the Prosecutor has already commenced an investigation on the situation of Palestine since 2021.”
The Commission urged Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups to adhere strictly to international humanitarian law and international human rights law. [IDN-InDepthNews]
UNRWA staff members gather to remember colleagues killed in the latest hostilities in the Gaza Strip. © 2023 UNRWA Photo by Shafiq Fahed
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