UN buildings in Gaza are no longer safe as shelters due to fighting by Israel and Hamas, a UN official warned Friday, with more than 50 buildings “impacted” by the conflict, including five “direct hits.”
With hundreds of thousands of Palestinians sheltering in UN facilities, mostly schools, “we cannot even provide them safety under a UN flag,” said Thomas White, an official with the body’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.
Speaking in a video address from the besieged coastal territory, White said 38 people had died in UN facilities, without specifying which side was responsible.
The latest round of fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers was sparked by a bloody cross-border raid by Hamas militants, killing some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.
Some 240 were taken hostage in the attack.
Israel has responded to the deadliest attack in its history with a relentless bombardment of Gaza, killing some 9,200 people, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Israeli ground forces have since moved into the territory, where fighting continues.
“The reality is we’ve lost contact with many of the shelters in the north,” White told member states gathered to listen to a report on the humanitarian situation.
Some 600,000 people in Gaza have been sheltering in UN buildings since the conflict kicked off on October 7.
“These are people seeking shelter under a UN flag seeking protection under international humanitarian law,” White said.
“Let’s be very clear, there is no place that is safe in Gaza right now.”
At least 72 UNRWA staff have been killed in the fighting.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said that the number of Palestinians killed so far is likely an undercount.
The agency, which Griffiths described as “the safety net” for many Gazans, is “practically out of business.”
“What we’ve seen unfold over the last 26 days in Israel, and in the occupied territories, is nothing short of what I think I would call a blight on our collective conscience,” he said.