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World News in Brief: ‘Appalling’ attacks in Kharkiv, plea to aid Myanmar civilians, maritime tribunal boosts climate action, civilian protection

Denise Brown said civilian lives must be protected during conflict by all sides, but in Kharkiv in recent days, they have instead been targeted in their homes, with businesses and transport links damaged and attacked.

“My thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones due to the strikes,” she said, adding that as a result of the “appalling” attacks, thousands of civilians, including some older people and persons with disabilities, have been forced to flee “leaving their entire lives behind”.

Support for the displaced

UN and humanitarian partners have been supporting evacuees from the outlying villages of Kharkiv close to the Russian border, Ukraine’s second city.

UN Children’s Fund UNICEF’s top official in Ukraine Munir Mammadzade told UN News on Wednesday that “each and every relocation or displacement is a lifetime trauma for these children.

“They have already been traumatised since the escalation of the war. The frontline areas are regularly attacked and shelled. They were already experiencing mental health problems.”

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International action ‘crucial’ to save thousands of Rohingya lives in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

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Thousands of innocent lives will be lost if the international community fails to respond to “ominous signs” of another bloodbath of the mostly-Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, an independent UN human rights expert said on Thursday.

The UN Human Rights Council-appointed Special Rapporteur monitoring Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said the world “seems to be failing a desperate people in their hour of peril while a hate-driven unnatural disaster unfolds in real time”.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled systematic attacks by Burmese security forces in 2017, crossing the border into Bangladesh in what the then UN human rights chief described as a “text book example of ethnic cleansing”.

Credible sources

Mr. Andrews said there were alarming and credible reports of killings, enforced disappearances and widespread arson across northern Rakhine in recent days, warranting an “immediate emergency response” by the international community.

With multiple armed groups operating in Rakhine as insurgents battle forces of the military junta for control, he called on all combatants to observe international humanitarian law.

“Mechanisms to provide emergency humanitarian aid must be immediately established and all parties must support the robust infusion of aid into Rakhine,” the expert said.

Maritime tribunal makes ‘unprecedented’ ruling obliging countries to reduce emissions

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A group of independent UN rights experts on Thursday applauded the “unprecedented” ruling from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea earlier this week that countries have an obligation to reduce carbon emissions.

The ruling said emissions which are stoking global warming qualify as marine pollution. It’s the first ruling of three cases seeking advisory opinions from international courts on climate change measures.

The UN experts said the judgement “provides timely guidance” and makes an explicit reference to human rights issues.

The tribunal ruled that countries have obligations to protect the marine environment from climate change impacts and ocean acidification.

Small victory, big consequences

It’s being seen as an important victory for small island developing States which are on the frontline of climate change who are gathering in Antigua and Barbuda next week for a major conference to chart the way forward for sustainable development.

The experts said obligations placed on countries under maritime law are “essential for climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as for healthy ecosystems to effectively and equitably tackle the triple planetary crisis that undermines the effective enjoyment of human rights”.

Special Rapporteurs and other UN rights experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation.

Protection of civilians must outweigh ‘narrow interests’

Marking Protection of Civilians Week, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths has called on world leaders to “forge a path away from narrow interests” towards a future of protection for all.

He said it was “vital to go above and beyond compliance [with international humanitarian and human rights law]: to strive for the full protection of civilians against the full range of harms.” 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Security Council’s consideration of the protection of civilians as an item on its agenda and the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Convention.

Increasing disease and humanitarian strain in Gaza amid aid shortages

The UN agency assisting Palestine refugees (UNRWA) is continuing to provide healthcare as best it can but overcrowded shelters and limited sanitation services, coupled with forced displacement, are posing severe health risks, the agency said in a post on X.

Furthermore, safe water is unaffordable for many, and people are resorting to burning trash to cook with, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) added.

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Aid operations ‘near collapse’

There are also serious concerns that humanitarian operations in the enclave “are near collapse”.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a bulletin that if food and humanitarian supplies do not begin to enter Gaza in “massive quantities”, desperation and hunger will spread.

“The limited functionality of the southern border crossings, key arteries for getting aid in, means that barely any fuel or aid is getting into any part of Gaza. There are currently no food distributions taking place in the south of Gaza except for some limited stocks that are given to community kitchens for hot meals,” it noted.

All bakeries in Rafah have shut down. However, as of Wednesday, the agency was still able to support six bakeries in central Gaza, four in Gaza City and one in Jabalia.

Listen below to an update on the humanitarian situation in Gaza from Shaza Moghraby, WFP Communications Officer:

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Multiple allegations of torture

Also on Thursday, a UN independent human rights expert urged the Government of Israel to investigate multiple allegations of torture and other degrading treatment against detained Palestinians since 7 October last year.

Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on torture emphasized that anyone deprived of their liberty must always be treated humanely.

“They must be provided with all protections required under international human rights and humanitarian law, whatever the circumstances of their detention,” she said in a news release.

The Human Rights Council-appointed expert said she has received allegations of individuals being beaten, kept in cells blindfolded and handcuffed for excessive periods, deprived of sleep, and threatened with physical and sexual violence.

Other reports suggest prisoners have been insulted and exposed to acts of humiliation, such as being photographed and filmed in degrading poses, while prolonged use of zip-tie handcuffs has reportedly caused friction injuries and wounds.

Absence of accountability

“I am particularly concerned that this emerging pattern of violations, coupled with an absence of accountability and transparency, is creating a permissive environment for further abusive and humiliating treatment of Palestinians,” Ms. Edwards said.

Listen to UN News’ s interview with the Special Rapporteur here:

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Since the brutal attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups on Israeli communities on 7 October 2023 and the ensuing Israeli military offensive in Gaza, it is estimated that thousands of Palestinians from Gaza as well as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been detained – including some children.

Special Rapporteurs are mandated by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to monitor thematic human rights and country situations. They operate independent of the UN and national governments, are not UN staff and do not draw a salary.

Gaza: Rafah aid situation increasingly desperate, UN teams warn

In a post on X, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) confirmed that food distribution had been suspended because of a lack of supplies and ongoing hostilities that have made it too dangerous for aid teams to work.

“The situation in Rafah has been significantly deteriorating since the initial evacuation orders were issued there on 6 May,” UNRWA spokesperson Louise Wateridge told UN News on Wednesday. “As this military operation has expanded further into Rafah, this has severely, severely restricted our ability and the wider humanitarian ability to provide aid, to provide services and in this case, to distribute food.”

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Aid vacuum

We now no longer have access to the food distribution centres in this area because of the active military operations, there is no safety and in addition to this, we are receiving no unimpeded access to aid through the crossings.”

Ms. Wateridge stressed that “we have a lot of people on the ground ready to provide aid and provide services, but without access across the borders to any supplies and without access to our distribution centres, we are simply unable to distribute food.” 

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Those comments echoed an update to the Security Council by Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, on Monday.

“I am deeply concerned that the current trajectory – including the possibility of a larger-scale operation – will further undermine efforts to scale-up the entry of humanitarian goods and their safe distribution to desperate civilians,” he said. 

While welcoming the opening of the Erez West/Zikim crossing in northern Gaza Mr. Wennesland stressed that “much more aid is needed to meet the enormous scale of the needs…There is no substitute for the full and increased operation of existing land crossings.” 

“Saving lives and addressing the critical needs in Rafah and Gaza more broadly must remain our immediate priority and I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire,” Mr. Wennesland added.

The UN official also highlighted the risks of a “wider spillover” regionally from the conflict as long as it remains unresolved, while on Wednesday, Ireland, Spain and Norway jointly announced that they intended to recognize a Palestinian state.

The diplomatic move to recognize Palestine, “effective 28 May”, follows months of consultations “with like-minded countries across Europe and the Middle East”, the Irish Government said in a statement.

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Aid lifelines under threat

As of 18 May, OCHA reported that only 10 bakeries were operational out of a total of 16 supported by the UN agency’s partners. “It is expected that these will run out of stock and fuel within days if no additional supplies are received,” Ms. Wosornu said. The remaining six bakeries – all in southern Gaza – have closed “due to either shortages of fuel or because of ongoing hostilities”.

According to UNRWA’s online aid tracking platform, no trucks have entered the main crossings into the enclave via Rafah and Kerem Shalom in the south since 27 vehicles made it through on Saturday. 

At least 500 aid trucks are needed every day to keep Gazans healthy, humanitarians have said repeatedly, while also calling for relief supplies to flood into Gaza to try to halt the new crisis caused by the Israeli military’s incursion into Rafah on 6 May, in response to deadly rocket fire by Hamas militants.

Fewer trucks crossing

While more than 5,600 humanitarian aid trucks entered Gaza in April via both crossings, only around 1,400 have made it so far in May, UNRWA data indicates.

The UN agency also noted that its health centres have not received any medical supplies in the last 10 days. Nonetheless, healthcare staff “continue to provide thousands of medical consultations each day at health centres that are still operational”, UNRWA said.

After more than seven months of heavy Israeli bombardment in response to Hamas-led terror attacks on southern Israel, nearly one in two Gazans – around 1.1 million people – face hunger levels so catastrophic that the UN has warned that many are on the brink of famine

Latest casualty data from OCHA via the Gazan health authorities indicates that more than 35,000 people have now been killed in the violence and more than 79,000 injured. Around 17,000 children are unaccompanied or remain separated from their families. 

At the Security Council Gaza briefing earlier this week, the forum heard an update from the UN aid coordination office, OCHA, which noted the Israeli military announcement last week that it had recovered the bodies of four Israeli hostages from Gaza. “It is estimated that 128 Israeli and foreign nationals remain captive in Gaza, including fatalities whose bodies are withheld,” said Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy.

 

Haiti’s health system pushed to breaking point: UNICEF

There are only six out of ten hospitals which still have some operational capacity as the gang-led chaos continues across the capital, Port-au-Prince, leaving vulnerable children deprived of essential care.

Mr. Maes said that the increased violence along with “mass displacement, dangerous epidemics and increasing malnutrition” has stretched the country’s health system to the limit and the “strangling of supply chains” may fully break it.

“The escalating violence in Port au Prince and Artibonite is plunging Haiti into a humanitarian disaster. Not only are children trapped, but so are the critical supplies that are meant to cure and nourish them,” Mr. Maes told UN News

Strained resources

Warehouses, pharmacies and containers filled with essential supplies have either been held up or looted, according to UNICEF. 

Yet, hundreds of containers holding humanitarian aid including neonatal, maternal, and medical necessities, remain stranded in Port-au-Prince.

The country’s capital usually receives and releases all imported health supplies, but with rampant violence and over 160,000 displaced civilians, Port-au-Prince can no longer care for a population that is “concurrently fighting physical trauma and the risk of disease.”

UNICEF says many of the displaced families, especially those in the southern parts of the country, are seeking safety and security, piling pressure on local health services. The agency reported that about 40 per cent of staff have had to leave the country because of high levels of insecurity. 

Widespread disease outbreaks

Haiti has reported 82,000 cases of cholera between October 2022 and April 2024, UNICEF said. 

Nearly 4.4 million people in Haiti desperately need food assistance, and 1.6 million civilians are dealing with acute food insecurity increasing the risk of child wasting and malnutrition. 

This situation is likely to be worsened by the coming rainy season which may cause a rise in waterborne diseases and diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as malaria. 

UNICEF and other humanitarian partners are establishing alternatives to Port-au-Prince’s import and dispatch hubs. 

These alternative routes have allowed the agency along with the Ministry of Health and international donors and partners, to deliver vaccines, medicine and medical supplies to children with the greatest needs.

On 18, 20 and 21 May, UNICEF delivered 38 tons of essential medical and lifesaving supplies, including health and cholera kits, through a new operational hub established by the UN and the children’s find.

Mr. Maes told UN News these supplies will be dispatched to health facilities “that are only barely keeping their heads above water.”

UNICEF says more aid is desperately needed. 

“We cannot allow vital supplies that could save children’s lives to remain blocked in warehouses and containers. They must be delivered now,” said Mr. Maes.

He told UN News that UNICEF is also “sourcing vital, ready-to-use therapeutic food right here in Haiti.”

He said that these supplies will go to 600 health facilities across Haiti as well as several other mobile clinics in areas with limited access.

“When supply reach children, children have a chance to a healthy life…children can go to school. They can play, they can just be children,” Mr. Maes said. 

Gaza: WHO chief calls for end to latest hospital siege

“Medical staff inside the hospital reported an attack on 20 May, with snipers aiming at the building and an artillery rocket hitting the fifth floor,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X.

Some 148 staff and 22 patients and their companions have remained “trapped inside” the hospital since Sunday, the WHO Director-General added, before issuing an appeal for their protection.

Evacuation order impact

According to the WHO, only around one third of Gaza’s 36 hospitals still function, leaving critical health care facilities “inaccessible” to patients and healthcare workers impacted by the violence or evacuation orders.

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In the southern city of Rafah, Israeli military orders telling Gazans to move have affected more than 20 medical points, four hospitals and four primary healthcare centres, the UN health agency noted. 

In northern Gaza, meanwhile, 16 medical points have been impacted, as well as five primary healthcare centres and Kamal Adwan Hospital, in addition to Al-Awda Hospital.

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In a social media post on X on Sunday, WHO’s Tedros raised the alarm about reports of intense hostilities in the vicinity of Kamal Adwan Hospital, coupled with an influx of injured patients, despite the facility’s limited ability to treat them. 

At least 900,000 Gazans uprooted

In a related development, the UN aid coordination office, OCHA, reported that the ongoing Israeli military operation and evacuation orders have uprooted well over 900,000 in the last two weeks – some four in 10 Gazans.

This includes 812,000 people from Rafah and more than 100,000 others in northern Gaza, with hundreds of thousands experiencing dreadful living conditions.

“Humanitarian partners working to provide shelter to people in Gaza report that there are no tents and very few shelter items left for distribution,” OCHA said.

Camping on roads

“People displaced from Rafah are currently seeking shelter in Khan Younis and Deir al Balah on any open land available, including access roads and agricultural land, as well as in damaged buildings that have not been structurally assessed.”

To date, more than 75 per cent of the Gaza Strip – some 285 square kilometres – is under evacuation orders amid escalating hostilities, the UN agency said. “Under international humanitarian law, civilians – whether they move or stay – must be protected. Wherever they are in Gaza, their essential needs, including food, shelter, water and health, must be met.”

No let up in violence

The escalating fighting has severely disrupted nutrition support services in the north and south, the OCHA update continued, noting that access had been lost to more than 100 food distribution points in Rafah alone. 

Meanwhile, humanitarian partners working to provide water, sanitation and hygiene support in Gaza said that there are shortages of hygiene kits and water containers for households to collect and store water, which are critical for people who are forcibly displaced.

More generally, the desperate lack of basic services after more than seven months of war have fuelled severe acute malnutrition among Gazans, exacerbating already serious concerns about a “further surge” in communicable diseases and dangerous hunger levels, OCHA warned.

With Gaza on the brink, hostage talks must resume, Security Council hears

Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, underscored the need for continuing the vital discussions, which have been supported by Egypt, Qatar and the United States.

If talks do not resume, I fear for the worst for the beleaguered and terrified civilians in Rafah, for the hostages held in unimaginable conditions for more than 225 days, and for an overstretched humanitarian operation that remains on the brink in the Gaza Strip,” he said.

‘Immediate priority, saving lives’

Over 1.2 million Palestinians displaced from elsewhere in Gaza have been sheltering in Rafah, with over 810,000 displaced again since the Israeli military offensive there began on 6 May.

“Saving lives and addressing the critical needs in Rafah and Gaza more broadly must remain our immediate priority,” Mr. Wennesland stressed.

“At the same time, we must not lose sight of the risks that these immediate threats pose to prospects for a resolution to this conflict and for longer term peace and stability in the region.”

Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations at OCHA, briefs the Security Council.
UN Photo/Manuel Elías

Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations at OCHA, briefs the Security Council.

‘Running out of words’

Also briefing ambassadors, Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), highlighted the dire humanitarian situation in Rafah and the wider Gaza Strip.

To be frank, we are running out of words to describe what is happening in Gaza. We have described it as a catastrophe, a nightmare, as hell on earth. It is all of these, and worse,” she said, adding that the situation deteriorates by the day.

More than 35,000 people have been killed and 79,000 wounded, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

‘Committed to stay and deliver’

Ms. Wosornu underscored that the UN and relief partners “are committed to staying and delivering”.

She welcomed the aid shipment via the floating dock set up by the US, adding however, that due to the current closure of the Rafah crossing and limited access via Kerem Shalom and Rafah, humanitarians lack the supplies and fuel “to provide any meaningful level of support”.

The senior OCHA official reiterated that civilians, their houses and the infrastructure they depend on must be protected, and that rapid, unimpeded passage of aid into and within Gaza must be facilitated.

She also highlighted the need for sufficient funding, particularly for the UN agency assisting Palestine refugees (UNRWA) “the central pillar of our aid operation”.

‘Deadly consequences of inaction’

In his briefing, Mr. Wennesland emphasized that a lasting solution in Gaza requires a “fundamentally political” approach.

He highlighted the importance of the new Palestinian Government, which includes eight ministers from Gaza, and its potential to unify Gaza and the West Bank politically, economically, and administratively.

Urging the international community to support the new Government, the senior UN official also underscored the urgency of establishing a viable political framework to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve a two-State solution.

Day after day we are witnessing the deadly consequences of inaction. Now is the time to lay the foundations for a better future for Palestinians, Israelis and the broader region. The UN will continue to support all such efforts,” he concluded.

Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland briefing the Security Council.

Rafah exodus passes 810,000, says UNRWA

“Every time families are displaced their lives are at serious risk. People are forced to leave everything behind looking for safety. But there’s no safe zone,” the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said in a post on X.

Accompanying the alert, images showed families with their belongings piled high on the back of cars and makeshift trailers; another photograph taken overlooking the coastline showed a mass of shelters for the displaced, all made out of simple sheeting and stretching all the way to the horizon.

According to the Gazan health authorities, at least 35,300 Gazans have been killed and more than 79,260 injured amid Israeli shelling since Hamas-led attacks in Israel on 7 October left some 1,250 dead and more than 250 taken hostage from southern Israel.

Latest data from UNRWA’s online logistics platform indicated that the delivery of humanitarian aid has stopped almost entirely via the main entry points to Gaza – the Rafah crossing and Kerem Shalom in the south.

Amid an escalation of military activity in eastern Rafah, no UN relief supplies reached the enclave on Sunday 19 May and only 27 aid trucks entered via Kerem Shalom on Saturday, according to the UN agency portal, which also showed that only 33 additional aid trucks have used Kerem Shalom since 6 May and none have entered via Rafah. 

In the northwest of the enclave, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it has been using Erez west – also known as Zikim – to transport supplies and “try to get enough food to stop famine in its tracks”. 

But Matthew Hollingworth, WFP Country Director for Palestine, insisted that humanitarians needed additional entry points for aid. “Every new entry point is a new artery, pumping lifeblood into Gaza, so we will work hard to continue to find new entry points and get more assistance in, at volume, consistently,” he said in the aid agency’s latest update.

More to follow…

 

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World court issues arrest warrants for Hamas leaders and Israel’s Netanyahu

In a statement, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Hamas’s Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri (Deif) and Ismail Haniyeh “bear criminal responsibility” for murder, extermination and taking hostages – among numerous other crimes – since the Gaza conflict erupted in the wake of Hamas-led attacks in southern Israel on 7 October.

There are also reasonable grounds to believe that Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, Israeli Minister of Defence, are responsible for other crimes and crimes against humanity “committed on the territory of the State of Palestine”.

Starvation tactic alleged

These include “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime…intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population (and) extermination and/or murder”.

Although the ICC is not a UN organization, it has an agreement of cooperation with the United Nations. And when a situation is not within the Court’s jurisdiction, the UN Security Council can refer the situation to the ICC, granting it jurisdiction.

To complement the allegations, Prosecutor Khan, a British national born in Edinburgh, noted that his Office had interviewed victims and survivors of the 7 October Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel. 

This included former hostages and eyewitnesses “from six major attack locations: Kfar Aza, Holit, the venue of the Supernova Music Festival, Be’eri; Nir Oz and Nahal Oz.

‘Unfathomable pain’

“It is the view of my Office that these individuals planned and instigated the commission of crimes on 7 October 2023, and have through their own actions, including personal visits to hostages shortly after their kidnapping, acknowledged their responsibility for those crimes,” Prosecutor Khan said.

“Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. These acts demand accountability,” he added.

Turning to the hostages still believed to be held in Gaza, the ICC official noted that his Office had interviewed victims and survivors and that this information along with other sources indicated that they had been kept in inhumane conditions with some subjected to sexual violence, including rape.

Survivors’ courage

“I wish to express my gratitude to the survivors, and the families of victims of the 7 October attacks, for their courage in coming forward to provide their accounts to my Office,” Prosecutor Khan said. “We remain focused on further deepening our investigations of all crimes committed as part of these attacks and will continue to work with all partners to ensure that justice is delivered.” 
On the issue of the liability of the top Israeli officials Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gallant, the ICC Prosecutor alleged “starvation as a method of war”.

This and other crimes against humanity were committed “as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy”.

To reinforce the allegations, Mr. Khan cited “interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, authenticated video, photo and audio material, satellite imagery and statements” which showed “that Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival”.

Aid siege

Detailing the impact of “total siege” imposed by Israel on Gaza after 8 October 2023, the ICC allegation explained that this involved “completely closing” the three border crossing points – Rafah, Kerem Shalom in the south and Erez in the north – “for extended periods and then by arbitrarily restricting the transfer of essential supplies – including food and medicine – through the border crossings after they were reopened”.

Among other deprivations the Israeli siege also cut off water and electricity pipelines to Gaza, the ICC Prosecutor continued, noting that Gazans also faced physical attacks when queuing for food, while other “attacks on and killing of aid workers…forced many agencies to cease or limit their operations”.

The effects of this State policy were “acute, visible and widely known”, Mr. Khan continued, noting the UN Secretary-General’s warning some two months ago that “1.1 million people in Gaza are facing catastrophic hunger – the highest number of people ever recorded – anywhere, anytime” as a result of an “entirely manmade disaster”. 

Gravest offences

Although Israel has the right to defend itself under international law, Mr. Khan insisted that “intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering” to civilians were clear breaches of the ICC’s foundational charter, signed in Rome in 2002.

“I have consistently emphasised that international humanitarian law demands that Israel take urgent action to immediately allow access to humanitarian aid in Gaza at scale. I specifically underlined that starvation as a method of war and the denial of humanitarian relief constitute Rome Statute offences.”

 

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Gaza: Nearly 800,000 now displaced from Rafah

“Once again, nearly half of the population of Rafah or 800,000 people are on the road,” Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini wrote in post on the social media platform X. formerly Twitter.

He said that following evacuation orders demanding people to flee to so-called safe zones, people mainly went to the middle areas in Gaza and Khan Younis, including to destroyed buildings.

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No safe passage or protection

“When people move, they are exposed, without safe passage or protection,” he said.  “Every time, they have to start from scratch, all over again.”

Mr. Lazzarini said the areas that people have escaped to do not have safe water supplies or sanitation facilities.

He cited the example of Al-Mawassi, describing it as “a sandy 14 square kilometre agricultural land, where people are left out in the open with little to no buildings or roads.”

The town, located on Gaza’s southern coast, “lacks the minimal conditions to provide emergency humanitarian assistance in a safe and dignified manner.”

He said that more than 400,000 lived in Al-Mawassi before the recent escalation, but now it is “crammed and cannot absorb more people”, which is also the same in Deir al Balah.   

‘No place is safe’

“The claim that people in Gaza can move to ‘safe’ or ‘humanitarian’ zones is false. Each time, it puts the lives of civilians at serious risk,” Mr. Lazzarini stated.

“Gaza does not have any safe zones,” he added. “No place is safe.  No one is safe.” 

The situation is again being made far worse by the lack of aid and basic humanitarian supplies, he continued, noting that humanitarians do not have any more supplies to give out, including food and other basic items. 

Meanwhile, key crossings into Gaza remain closed or are unsafe to access as they are located near or in combat zones. Mr. Lazzarini also highlighted the critical need for fuel, which is essential for aid distribution.

Land routes crucial

He said only 33 aid trucks have made it to southern Gaza since 6 May – “a small trickle amid the growing humanitarian needs and mass displacement.”

“While we welcome reports on first shipments arriving at the new floating dock, land routes remain the most viable, effective, efficient and safest aid delivery method,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, the UN Spokesperson’s Office said the World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed that 10 truckloads of food were transported to its warehouse the previous day via the floating dock, which was installed by the United States military.

“Some of the shipment included high-energy biscuits for WFP to distribute, but there were also commodities for other humanitarian partners to distribute, which included rice, pasta, and lentils,” the note said.

Mr. Lazzarini emphasized that the land crossings into Gaza must re-open and be safe to access. ”Without the re-opening of these routes, the deprivation of assistance and catastrophic humanitarian conditions will persist,” he said.

Ceasefire now

He underlined the obligations of the parties to the conflict, starting with rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for all civilians in need, wherever they are located.  

“The displaced population must have access to basic survival items, including food, water, and shelter, as well as hygiene, health, assistance and above all safety,” he said.

Humanitarian relief teams also need safe and free movement to access people in need, and protection wherever they may be, and the parties are also obligated to protect civilians and civilian objects everywhere.   

“Above all, it is time to agree on a ceasefire,” he concluded.  

“Any further escalation in the fighting will only wreak more havoc on civilians and make it impossible to finally have the peace and stability that Israelis and Palestinians desperately need and deserve.”

 

 

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Gaza: Aid delivery via floating dock welcomed, but land routes ‘more important’

OCHA warned that the maritime corridor cannot replace critical land routes, which are the quickest and most effective way of delivering humanitarian aid in the besieged enclave, where more than two million Palestinians desperately need food, shelter and other assistance. 

“Any and all aid into Gaza is welcome by any route,” spokesperson Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva. “But, it is an addition, and it doesn’t take away the fact that land crossings will be more important.” 

Additional aid route 

The US military’s Central Command announced that the trucks began rolling at approximately 9am, local time, on Friday, and that no troops went ashore.

The floating dock was anchored to a beach in Gaza the previous day. With most border crossings to the enclave closed or unsafe, it will provide an additional path for aid delivery to the embattled enclave. 

The United Nations welcomes any effort towards ensuring that aid reaches Gaza, said UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, speaking in New York later on Friday.

“As such, we are grateful to the United States, as well as to Cyprus, with the support of other Member States, to sustain the maritime corridor as an additional route for aid to Gaza,” he said.

He explained that “after months of discussions with all relevant authorities, the UN has agreed to support in receiving and arranging for the dispatch of aid into Gaza from the floating dock, as long as it respects the neutrality and independence of humanitarian operations.”

Open all crossings 

Mr. Laerke said UN agencies are finalising their readiness plans for handling the aid once the floating dock is properly functioning, keeping in mind the need to ensure the safety of staff. 

“Community awareness and acceptance is paramount to ensure the safety and security of this operation,” he insisted. 

“However, getting aid to people in need into and across Gaza cannot and should not depend on a floating dock far from where needs are most acute,” he said. 

“Land routes are the most viable, effective and efficient aid delivery method, which is why we need all crossing points to be opened.” 

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Rafah displacement continues

Updating on the situation in Rafah, OCHA reported that nearly 640,000 people have been displaced from the area since the Israeli military offensive began.  Many have fled to overcrowded Deir al Balah governorate in central Gaza, where conditions are dire.

The ongoing influx of displaced people there, and in  Khan Younis, continues to strain humanitarian response, which is already overstretched.

“The situation is constantly shifting because of the fighting that is so intense,” Yasmina Guera, an OCHA Humanitarian Affairs Officer in Rafah, told UN News on Friday.

“One of the challenges for the response is that the minute you put something in place, the minute you think, you know something, you actually have to change everything again and you have to start from zero.”

OCHA said teams working on getting food to people in Gaza report that only five bakeries remain operational across the enclave – four in Gaza city and one in Deir al Balah. Nearly a dozen others have stopped working due to fuel and supply shortages, amid ongoing hostilities.

As a result, aid partners have been forced to conduct small-scale distributions with limited stocks, providing reduced rations and prioritizing Khan Younis and Deir al Balah.

A child walks through the rubble in Rafah.
© UNRWA

A child walks through the rubble in Rafah.

Water and sanitation crisis

The ongoing displacement from Rafah to Khan Younis has exacerbated the water and sanitation crisis, with sewage overflow and solid waste spreading across roads, displacement camps, and the rubble of destroyed homes – with a catastrophic impact on health.

“Our colleagues working on ensuring that people in Gaza have adequate shelter say there are no remaining stocks of shelter materials inside Gaza,” OCHA said.

Fuel shortage

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that the biggest issue now is fuel. 

Spokesperson Tarik Jašarević reported that only 13 out of 36 hospitals in Gaza are now partially functioning, emphasizing that fuel is required for electricity and to run generators.

He said health partners require between 1.4 million to 1.8 million litres monthly so that hospitals can function, but only 159,000 litres have entered Gaza since the border closure, “and that’s clearly not sufficient”.

 

 

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