UN warns of surge in casualties from potential Gaza escalation

The border city is a critical entry point for humanitarian aid. Dozens of aid organizations store supplies for civilians across the Gaza Strip such as food, water, health, sanitation and hygiene items in the southern Gaza city.

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Children walk past a school building affiliated with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, May 2, 2024. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)

An Israeli incursion into the southern city of Rafah in Gaza could lead to a “slaughter” and worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in the region, the United Nations’ (UN) humanitarian office and health agency warned Friday.

The city currently serves as a base for humanitarian operations inside Gaza following months of fierce Israeli bombardment and civilian casualties.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a ground offensive in Rafah will proceed regardless of any potential truce deal with Hamas.

With more than 1.2 million people crammed into Rafah, the city’s ailing health system could not withstand a potential devastation if Israel launches an incursion into the region.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza would be at imminent risk of death in case of an assault, warned Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at a press briefing in Geneva.

“It could be a slaughter of civilians and an incredible blow to the humanitarian operation in the entire strip,” he said.

The border city is a critical entry point for humanitarian aid. Dozens of aid organizations store supplies for civilians across the Gaza Strip such as food, water, health, sanitation and hygiene items in the southern Gaza city.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is making contingency plans to ensure the health system is prepared and can continue providing care, but these plans would only be a “band-aid,” Richard Peeperkorn, Representative in WHO’s office for the West Bank and Gaza, told the briefing via video link.

An influx of new displacements would worsen overcrowding, increasing pressure on resources like food, water, and health care, the WHO said in a statement. This would trigger more disease outbreaks, aggravate hunger, and result in further loss of life.

Only 33 percent of Gaza’s 36 hospitals and 30 percent of primary health care centers are partially functional amid repeated attacks and shortages of vital medical supplies, fuel and staff, the Geneva-based health body said.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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