With nearly half a million displaced in Gaza, UNRWA head calls on Israel to take responsibility

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr
Palestinian child views his destroyed home for the first time during ceasefire hours in the Shuja'iyeh neighborhood of northern Gaza. (Photo: Allison Deger)
Palestinian child views his destroyed home for the first time during ceasefire hours in the Shuja’iyeh neighborhood of northern Gaza. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Today the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) told members of the UN Security Council that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has surpassed United Nations capabilities for emergency shelter and services and is now the responsibility of the Israel army.

“The occupying power will have to assume direct responsibility,” said Pierre Krahenbuhl, speaking by telephone from Gaza City. Krahenbuhl expressed regret that UNRWA no longer has the resources to provide for the additional influx of refugees expected from cities Israeli authorities notified to evacuate last night. Palestinians are fleeing the towns of Khan Younis and Zeitoun, yet there is no organization on the ground that has the resources to provide food or water, let alone shelter for the scale of those in need.

The United Nations estimates up to 440,000 people are now displaced with 240,000 residing in UNRWA facilities. This means a quarter of the population of Gaza is living in tenuous, temporary shelter. In addition to the devastation to the civilian infrastructure in the northern communities of Shuja’iyeh, Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya, over 103 United Nations facilities and 24 medical facilities have been damaged. Seven UNRWA workers have been killed since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge nearly four weeks ago.

Inside of the UNRWA shelters, the overcrowding is compounding the human impact. Disease has started to spread amongst those who are holed up UNRWA facilities where families are cramped 80 to a room. “Infection is beginning with skin rashes, scabies and others,” said Krahenbuhl.

“I feel we are facing a precedent,” Krahenbuhl continued, warning the Security Council that Gaza “will become unlivable in a mater of years unless urgent steps are taken.” He concluded that the humanitarian crisis has now “exceeded” UNRWA’s reach and “immediate steps” must be taken to address root issues, not limited to Israel’s security and lifting the blockade across the besieged Gaza Strip. He stressed accountability from Israel as the occupying power to provide dire relief, as UNRWA has exhausted all of its means of caring for nearly a quarter million refugees.

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Thanks Allison. What hell on earth Israel has created. Israel has never taken it’s obligations as the Occupying power seriously– it has trashed all International Laws since the beginning. It demonizes the UN, unless it suits them. Now the UN can’t manage to do their important work, and what and whom Israeli weapons hasn’t already destroyed or killed, disease and despair will. No electricity, no potable water, no infrastructure, severely short medical supplies and exhausted… Read more »

CNN: A family of 9 killed by Israeli strikes. Death toll rises. No electricity, no water, they are in dire straits, the world simply watches. Who will save these children?

UN condemns this massacre, saying Israel DELIBERATELY breaking international laws.

The big joke? US condemns number of civilians killed by Israel.


Krahenbuhl got it wrong. The people of Gaza have an elected (?) government. They should ask their government why it decided to drag them all into this pointless war. They should also ask Mr. Haniyeh why he wasted 40 percent of hamas budget on building a vast system of military attack tunnels instead of using the money to provide for the peoples actual needs. They should also demand transparency and a full disclosure of how… Read more »

72hr humanitarian ceasefire announced, joint statement by Ban Ki Moon and Kerry, to start 8am (Palestine time) tomorrow. No link – just came thru on radio.

I suggested in a comment earlier today that Israel may be trying to force the Gaza Palestinians to emigrate by making their land unlivable. I asked this question, “Will Gaza be able to sustain a human population after Israel is finished with it?” Later today on M-W we get one answer from Pierre Krahenbuhl of UNRWA, “. . . Krahenbuhl continued, warning the Security Council that Gaza “will become unlivable in a mater of years… Read more »