Shamdasani’s comments come a day after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza, saying he would halt the supply of electricity, food, water and fuel to the Palestinian enclave following Hamas’ devastating surprise attack over the weekend.
“These risks (are) seriously compounding the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Gaza, including the capacity of medical facilities to operate, especially in light of the increasing number of injured people,” Shamdasani stated Tuesday, speaking at a news conference in Geneva with UN humanitarian office representative Jens Laerke.
Laerke added the decision to cut off the water supply to Gaza affects more than 610,000 people and “will result in severe shortage of drinking water.”
“We remain extremely alarmed by these rapidly escalating events,” said Laerke, adding that displacement across the Gaza Strip has reached more than 187,500 people since Saturday.
“Since Saturday, four schools and eight health care facilities in Gaza have sustained damage. Destruction of infrastructure and streets has hindered the movement of civil defense and medical teams trying to reach victims,” he said, adding that health care, water and sanitation facilities have also sustained damage.
The United Nations human rights chief has also warned that Israel’s imposition of a total blockade on the Gaza Strip amounts to a war crime and violates international law.
Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement on Tuesday that the blockade “seriously” risks the already dire humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave.
Turk stressed the limited capacity of medical facilities to operate, especially in light of the growing number of injured. He said Israel’s “imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law.”
“This risks seriously compounding the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Gaza, including the capacity of medical facilities to operate, especially in light of increasing numbers of injured,” Turk continued, adding that a siege may amount to “collective punishment.”
Meanwhile, Oxfam warned that a total siege on Gaza will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.
The UK-based charity has suspended all humanitarian work in the besieged coastal enclave because of ongoing air strikes and violence.
“The decision to implement a ‘total siege’ by the Israeli government, in addition to the ongoing blockade, will further deny Gazan civilians essentials like food, water and electricity,” stated Mustafa Tmaizi, Oxfam’s acting country director in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.
“This constitutes collective punishment of a population that bears no responsibility for the violence and is illegal under international law. It will not contribute to peace and security, instead, it will further fan the flames of this crisis.”
Meantime, Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, urged “the parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and take every possible step to protect civilians”.
“Without immediate restraint I fear we are heading for a humanitarian disaster,” she wrote on X.