The United Nations expressed deep concern on Friday for all civilians in the Gaza Strip after Israel’s order for the entire population there to leave the north, amid ongoing airstrikes and a deepening humanitarian crisis.
The UN representatives in Gaza on Thursday were informed by their liaison officers in the Israeli military that everyone living north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within 24 hours.
UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric said that some 1.1 million people would be expected to leave northern Gaza, adding that the same order applied to all UN staff and those sheltered in UN facilities, including schools, health centres and clinics.
The UN considers it “impossible” for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences and appeals for the order to be rescinded.
Echoing that message, the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) joined the call for Israel to rescind the relocation order, which amounted to a “death sentence” for many, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic, said.
Jasarevic told journalists in Geneva, in line with the assessment of health authorities there, that it would be “impossible to evacuate vulnerable hospital patients from the north of Gaza”.
The UN also reiterated its calls for the immediate release of hostages held in Gaza following Hamas’s deadly Saturday attack on Israel, and for the protection of civilians and urgent aid access to the sealed-off enclave, as UN chief António Guterres and his envoys continued their diplomatic efforts.
UN humanitarians joined their voices to these calls on Friday, urging the parties to save civilian lives.
UN relief chief Martin Griffiths, tweeted that “the noose around the civilian population in Gaza is tightening”, asking how such a huge number of people could possibly move across a “densely populated warzone” in just 24 hours.
Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), warned that the relocation order “will only lead to unprecedented levels of misery and further push people in Gaza into the abyss.
He said that over 423,000 people across the enclave have already been displaced, of whom more than 270,000 have taken refuge in UNRWA shelters.
UNRWA tweeted on Friday that Gaza was “fast becoming a hell hole and is on the brink of collapse. There is no exception, all parties must uphold the laws of war.”
Briefing newsmen in Geneva, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson James Elder regretted that the humanitarian situation had now reached “lethal lows”.
He highlighted that the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on the planet and people, including hundreds of thousands of children, are finding themselves “with nowhere safe to go”.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas has escalated already, resulting in total military warfare in the Gaza Strip since the past one week.
According to a report from humanitarian bodies, the ongoing war had already claimed over 2,300 lives on both sides.