UNRWA Commissioner-General Calls Israel to Halt Offensive on Gaza Civilians

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GAZA, July 14, 2014 – (WAFA) – UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Kraehenbuehl called on Monday Israel to put an end to its offensive against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza Strip.

In a press briefing on the situation in Gaza delivered during an inspection visit to an UNRWA school where northern Gaza civilians have sought refuge, Kraehenbuehl stated: “the Gaza Strip is once again experiencing very dramatic circumstances, circumstances we had hoped it would never have to experience again.”

He added: “The population of Gaza, including Palestine refugees, is once again enduring great suffering and many have lost their lives or sustained serious injuries.”

He added: “I have come to Gaza, together with Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley, to directly observe the situation resulting from the widening military operations. I also came to discuss with our Director of Operations in Gaza, Robert Turner, the level of UNRWA’s preparedness and emergency response capabilities.”

Expressing his concerns about the situation in Gaza, Kraehenbuehl stated: “I am deeply alarmed and affected by the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and the devastating human and physical toll it is taking on civilians, including Palestine refugees. The casualty numbers are now said to lie at 174 killed and over 1,100 wounded.”

Attesting to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Gaza casualties are civilians, Kraehenbuehl stated: “All indications are -and I find this particulary dramatic – that women and children make up a sizable number of victims of the current strikes. I am equally disturbed that people with disabilities are among the victims, reportedly as a result of Israeli strikes.”

Confirming that a ground aggression against Gaza would inevitably claim the lives of more civilians,  Kraehenbuehl said: “What began with the extensive use of air power could expand into a ground operation with an actual Israeli military incursion into Gaza, leading to a fear that more and more civilians will be affected,” and noted that rockets continue to be fired at Israel.

Commenting on fear and despair experienced by Gazans, who are yet again ‘facing death, devastation and displacement’ Kraehenbuehl said: Thousands of parents today have no more answers to give to their young children when they are asked why their houses are shaking or breaking under the weight and relentless force of the bombardments.”

He went on to stress that Palestinian casualties are human beings, stating: “The dead and injured in Gaza are not anonymous. Behind the figures lie multiple individual destinies now torn apart.  Too often in their lives have Gazan civilians been denied their dignity. . . Palestinians are not statistics and we must never allow them to be treated as such. They are human beings like others in the world, with their identity and the same hopes and expectations for an improved future for their children.”

Kraehenbuehl urgently called on the Israeli forces to put an end to their attacks against or endangering, civilians and civilian infrastructure which are contrary to international humanitarian law, to exercise ‘maximum restraint’ and respect ‘measures of distinction, proportionality and precaution’ to avoid further casualties and overall destabilization.

He also called all parties to respect international law and protect the civilian population, including ending rocket fire on Israel.

Commenting on Palestinian people who take sanctuary in UNRWA installations, Kraehenbuehl called Israel to respect the ‘inviolability’ of UNRWA installations and premises in accordance with international law.

Kraehenbuehl pledged to keep UNRWA’s engagement and activities strong and effective and called on the donor and state community to ensure that these activities are properly funded.

Source: WAFA