Scenes of “utter horror” in northern Gaza with corpses left on streets, people starving: UN

Martin Griffiths, the man in charge of the UN’s relief operations in Gaza, has painted a dire picture of conditions in the besieged strip, saying his colleagues have witnessed "scenes of utter horror".

“Corpses left lying in the road. People with evident signs of starvation stopping trucks in search of anything they can get to survive,” Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told members of the UN Security Council on Friday.

Griffiths stated many people no longer had homes to return to, with shelters in the enclave housing far more people than they could cope with.

Food and water was running out and the risk of famine was growing by the day, he added.

The health system, he said, was “in a state of collapse,” where women were unable to give birth safely, children could not get vaccinated, infectious diseases were on the rise and people had been seeking shelter in hospital yards.

In a stinging criticism, Griffiths said his team’s efforts to send humanitarian convoys to the north have been met with delays and denials amid impossible conditions, with the safety of aid workers being put in danger.

“Orders for evacuation are unrelenting. As ground operations move southwards, aerial bombardments have intensified in areas where civilians were told to relocate for their safety,” Griffiths said of Israel’s evacuation policies.

“There is no safe place in Gaza. Dignified human life is a near impossibility,” he continued.

But the UN humanitarian chief also urged people not to forget “the 1,200 people killed, thousands injured, and hundreds taken in the brutal attack by Hamas and other armed groups on Israel on October 7, and the accounts of abhorrent sexual violence”.

“What we have seen since October 7 is a stain on our collective conscience. Unless we act, it will become an indelible mark on our humanity.”

Israel has launched relentless air and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip since a cross-border attack by Hamas, which Tel Aviv said killed around 1,200 people.

At least 23,708 Palestinians have since been killed, mostly women and children, and 60,050 injured, according to Palestinian health authorities.

According to the UN, 85% of the population of Gaza is already internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.

An official from UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on Friday voiced concern about the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli attacks since Oct. 7.

“I’ve returned today for a week in Gaza and it’s clear from my visit: The situation in Gaza is beyond any of our worst nightmares, and it’s getting worse. What I saw, what I felt was fear, despair, desperation is everywhere,” Dominic Allen, UNFPA Representative for the State of Palestine, told reporters via video link.

Stressing that nowhere safe in Gaza, Allen stated after the fear comes the immense humanitarian needs as the people in the coastal territory lack food, water, health care and shelter.

“I don’t even want to speak about a life with dignity because I didn’t see any of that in Gaza right now. What I saw was really truly heartbreaking,” he added.

The world needs to help Gaza now, Allen said, adding that he is personally “terrified” for over 1 million women and girls, who are “suffering the most,” including 5,500 pregnant women due to give birth in this coming months.

“During my visit I met some of them and I can’t stop thinking about them. Many of them suffering from thirst, malnutrition, lack of health. If the bombs don’t kill them, if disease hunger and dehydration don’t catch up with them, simply giving life, will. And we can’t let this happen.”

A UN spokesman also on Friday voiced concern as Israel continues to displace hundreds of Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip.

“In southern Gaza, new evacuation orders were issued yesterday to residents of the Al-Mawasi area and several blocks near Salah al-Din road, covering an estimated 4.6 square km,” Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

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