The UN’s humanitarian chief has described the situation in Gaza as “dire”, as the organisation revealed that one child has been killed every hour in the conflict for the past three days.
Israel’s tank and air bombardment on targets in the Gaza Strip continued today, with health officials reporting that 718 Palestinians have now been killed in the fighting.
According to the latest situation report from Gaza by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the most recent shelling has caused damage to six UN-run schools, among 83 hosting at least 140,000 people who have been forced to evacuate their homes.
But speaking on Thursday Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs, said the most pressing concern in the “terrible” situation was that “so many children have been killed as a result of the violence in the last few days”.
At least 23 children had died in the fighting over the period covered by the OCHA’s last daily report. At least 26 had died in the 24 hours before that – and the trend averaging one child death an hour now goes back three days.
Baroness Amos said: “People are sheltering in UN schools which as a result cannot be used for education. They are running out of food, and water is also a serious concern.
“With about 44 per cent of Gaza not able to be used by Palestinians leaving their homes the situation is even more dire.
“But the majority of those killed in Gaza are women, children and men who have nothing to do with the fighting. That we have had children, so many children killed as a result of the violence in the last few days is a terrible, terrible situation.”
Charities have called for an urgent break in fighting to allow for humanitarian aid workers to reach the worst-affected areas.
And while Hamas have rejected ceasefire proposals that do not include the removal of a blockade on Gaza’s land and sea borders, leader Khaled Mashaal said he would not “close the door” to a humanitarian truce.
He told a news conference in Qatar on Wednesday: “We need the calm for a few hours to evacuate the wounded and assist in [aid] relief.”
Gazan police and health officials said that in the early hours of Thursday morning an Israeli airstrike on the Jebaliya refugee camp killed six members of the same family, including an 18-month-old boy.
More than 2,000 rockets have been now been fired at Israel from Gaza since July 8, and the Israeli military says it has uncovered more than 30 tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel, some of which have been used by Hamas to carry out attacks.
Speaking today alongside the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no reference to the cease-fire efforts, humanitarian or otherwise.
“We started this operation to return peace and quiet to Israel... And we shall return it,” he said.
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