Gazans being “choked” by bombardment and siege: UN

The people of Gaza are being "choked" by the continuous Israeli bombardment and blockade, the head of UNRWA, the UN relief agency that works in the Gaza Strip, Philippe Lazzarini, has warned.

Lazzarini said that the continuous bombardment of Gaza, “together with the siege, are choking Gaza and its people”.

He continued that more than 700,000 women, children, and men now live in UNRWA schools and shelters.

“Basic services are crumbling. Everything is running out – food, water, medicine, and fuel. “

He added UNRWA staff were still operating some 150 UNRWA shelters, stating,“They keep one-third of our health centers open and manage mobile clinics. They deliver medicines to hospitals.”

Lazzarini said that Gazans feel de-humanized and abandoned. He asked the summit to support efforts “to reach a humanitarian ceasefire, with strict adherence to international humanitarian law.”

He also added that a meaningful and continuous flow of humanitarian aid is essential, but claimed that “the logistics and the verification of trucks by Israel are extremely cumbersome. They only allow a limited number of trucks into Gaza.”

“We must increase the volume of aid and use other crossings, including those within Israel, like Kerem Abu Salem.”

A significant number of Arab leaders attended the emergency gathering in Riyadh on Saturday, titled the Joint Arab Islamic Extraordinary Summit in Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh.

The Arab-Islamic summit hosted by Saudi Arabia has called for an end to the war in Gaza and rejected justifying the war in the besieged strip as Israeli self-defence.

The summit on Saturday condemned “Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, war crimes and barbaric and inhumane massacres by the occupation government”, a final communique said.

It also called for an end to the siege on Gaza, allowing humanitarian aid into the enclave and halting arms exports to Israel, following the meeting in Riyadh.

The leaders demanded that the United Nations Security Council adopt “a decisive and binding resolution” to halt Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza.

Originally, only the 22 members of the Arab League were expected to participate, but the meeting was later expanded to include the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a wider association of 57 mostly Muslim-majority states to which the Arab League countries belong.

In the opening remarks, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) called for an immediate cessation of military operations in Gaza and the release of all captives and prisoners.

“This is a humanitarian catastrophe that has proved the failure of the international community and the UN Security Council to put an end to Israel’s gross violations of international humanitarian laws, and prove the dual standards adopted by the world,” he stated.

“We are certain the only cause for peace is the end of the Israeli occupation and illegal settlements, and restoration of the established rights of the Palestinian people and the establishment of the state on 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” MBS added.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas highlighted that besides Gaza, Israeli forces’ raids in the occupied West Bank have also escalated and called on the United States to put an end to “Israel’s aggression, the occupation, violation and desecration of our holy sites”.

“No military and security solutions are acceptable as they have all failed. We categorically reject any efforts to displace our people from Gaza or the West Bank,” Abbas continued.

Israel has not relented in its attacks on the Gaza Strip despite increasing calls for an immediate ceasefire, especially from the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The non-stop air raids and ground assaults – which came in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas which killed about 1,200 Israelis – have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

Israel has significantly ramped up its attacks on hospitals in recent days, and the UN has announced the lives of one million children in Gaza are “hanging on by a thread”.

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