Gaza: Nowhere to go, as humanitarian crisis reaches 'dangerous new low'
The development follows an announcement by UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, just before midnight Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, that UN representatives in Gaza had been told by Israeli military liaison officers everyone living north of Wadi Gaza should relocate to southern Gaza within 24 hours.
Some 1.1 million people would be expected to leave northern Gaza, Mr. Dujarric said, 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for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences and appeals for the order to be rescinded, he added.
Briefing journalists in New York on Friday afternoon, Mr. Dujarric said the UN Secretary-General António Guterres had been “working the phones” since Thursday night.
“He’s been in constant contact with Israeli authorities urging them to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.” The UN chief has also been in touch with ambassadors in New York and other key official in the Middle East.
Mr. Dujarric said it was essential to provide humanitarian access for civilians trapped inside the Gaza Strip to prevent more deaths.
He 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.
‘Pushing people into the abyss’
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 possible move across a "densely populated warzone" in just 24 hours.
Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, warned that the relocation order “will only lead to unprecedented levels of misery and further push people in Gaza into 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.