In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees, emphasized on Monday that a cease-fire has become a critical necessity, stating that it is “a matter of life and death for millions.”
Lazzarini accused Israel of inflicting “collective punishment” on Palestinians, leading to the forced displacement of civilians. He expressed concern that the lack of essential resources, including food, water, and medical supplies, might lead to a breakdown of civil order in Gaza. Notably, a U.N. warehouse was reportedly raided by desperate Palestinians seeking food and water.
The General Assembly, echoing the U.N.’s call for a cease-fire, passed a resolution with overwhelming support (120-14) on Saturday, emphasizing the urgency to halt civilian deaths and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza. However, the U.S. was among the 14 countries that voted against the measure.
Lazzarini disclosed that 64 agency staff members, including the head of security and his entire family, were killed in the conflict. He painted a dire picture of the situation, highlighting the urgency of addressing the critical humanitarian needs in Gaza.
The conflict, sparked by a surprise attack by Hamas that claimed over 1,400 Israeli lives, has seen retaliatory Israeli airstrikes and ground invasions resulting in over 8,500 Palestinian casualties, including more than 3,500 children, according to Gaza health officials. Discrepancies in casualty figures have emerged, with the Biden administration questioning Hamas-run agency numbers while the U.N. generally accepts them.
The U.S. has expressed support for Israel, offering billions in additional aid. However, the Biden administration reportedly cautioned against a large-scale Israeli ground invasion of northern Gaza due to the risks of civilian casualties.
In a speech last week, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres urged an immediate humanitarian cease-fire to alleviate suffering, ensure safer aid delivery, and facilitate the release of hostages. He also voiced deep concerns about clear violations of international humanitarian law in the conflict. The situation remains a cause for global concern, emphasizing the need for urgent diplomatic efforts to address the humanitarian crisis.