The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres on Friday issued an urgent appeal for all parties involved the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian enclave of Gaza and Israel to “immediately cease the fighting”.
Guterres, in a statement by his Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, called on parties to cease fighting or risk creating an “uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis”.
The UN chief said: “The ongoing military escalation has caused great suffering and destruction. It has claimed scores of civilian lives, including, tragically, many children.
“The fighting has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole,” he said.
Guterres, who called for meditation efforts to intensify a cease fire, said the UN was “actively involved in such efforts”, which are also key to maintaining the lifesaving flow of aid to Gaza.
Similarly, the UN humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA) also raised the alarm on Friday over the continued escalation of violence, noting that civilians on both sides were bearing the brunt.
According to latest news reports, the day has seen the most intense exchanges of the week between Israeli Defense Forces and that of the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza.
The enclave continues to be bombed by Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire, while Hamas rocket barrages continue into Israel.
The UN Security Council announced that it will convene on Sunday for an open meeting to discuss the worsening situation.
Diplomatic efforts are reportedly underway in the region, to negotiate an end to the spiraling violence.
In a statement, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the region, Lynn Hastings, said some 10,000 Palestinians had fled their homes in Gaza, with limited access to water, food, hygiene, and health services.
“Hospitals and access to water and sanitation services depend on electricity, the fuel for which will run out on Sunday.
“The Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups must immediately allow the UN and our humanitarian partners to bring in fuel, food, and medical supplies and to deploy humanitarian personnel.
“All parties must always adhere to international humanitarian and human rights laws,” she said.
Meanwhile, The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said in a statement that it was “alarmed by the number of civilian casualties, including children and women caused by the current escalation”, calling for end to the destruction of health facilities, schools, and homes across Gaza.
The UN sexual and reproductive health agency in the region said the struggling health sector was already strained “after years of protracted crisis further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic with a 20 per cent increase in active cases in April alone”
There are currently some 210,000 pregnant and lactating women in Palestine, according to UNFPA. And around 365 women give birth every day – 150 in Gaza, 215 in West Bank.
“Our immediate priority is to ensure safe delivery for these women and their babies”, said UNFPA’s Arab States Regional Director, Dr Luay Shabaneh. (NAN)