Fighting in northern Gaza aggravating crisis in the south

November 14, 2023

The flight of some 200,000 Palestinians from northern Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war has led to a humanitarian crisis in the south, a United Nations agency said Tuesday.

Only one hospital in the north is currently capable of receiving patients as none of the others remain able to function, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

That statement follows alarm bells sounded by the the head of the World Health Organization on Sunday, who said that Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, is “not functioning as a hospital any more.”

The Hamas-run Health Ministry proposed Tuesday that Shifa be evacuated under the supervision of the Red Cross. 

Since Hamas’ October 7 terror attack on Israel, which sparked the war in Gaza, the Israeli government has urged civilians to evacuate Gaza City and other areas in the north. However, the south is now not much safer as Israel carries out frequent airstrikes throughout the territory. Israel says it’s aiming at militant targets, but civilians, including children, often suffer collateral damage.

Meanwhile, U.N.-run shelters in the south are severely overcrowded, averaging just one toilet per 160 people. 

So far a total of roughly 1.5 million people—more than two-thirds of Gaza’s population—have fled their homes, causing the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees to struggle to provide basic services to more than 600,000 people sheltering in the south. 

And the U.N. agency has warned that it may run out of fuel by Wednesday, which would force it to hold most of its aid operations. 

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of humanitarian aid trucks have crossed from Egypt into Gaza via the Rafah border crossing carrying food, water, medicine and medical supplies, but Israel has not yet allowed fuel to be delivered. Before giving the go-ahead, Israel reportedly wants to see each fuel tanker accompanied by a United Nations monitor team to ensure it goes to Gaza hospitals and not the terrorist organization Hamas.

While U.S. intelligence officials tell ABC News that there is evidence supporting Israel’s claim that Hamas is using civilians as human shields and civilian structures, like Gaza hospitals and schools, as military bases, President Biden has expressed concern for the Shifa hospital on Monday, saying, “It’s my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital. The hospital must be protected.”

But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a cease-fire before the release of some 240 hostages being held by Hamas, though he did agree last week to daily, four-hour pauses in the fighting aimed at allowing people to move to the south of Gaza and retrieve food and medicine.


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