Middle East on ‘Brink of Abyss’ warns UN as Israel-Hamas conflict worsens Gaza crisis


The UN chief’s appeal comes as clean water and other vital supplies dwindle inside Gaza in the wake of Israel’s blockade.

The UN and other humanitarian agencies have been working around the clock to condition aid since the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted following the militant group’s October 7 attacks on several locations inside Israel and Israel’s subsequent declaration of war.

Thousands have reportedly been killed on both sides and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee as the situation in the Gaza Strip rapidly deteriorated after Israel warned of an imminent offensive.

“In this dramatic moment that we are on the edge of the abyss in the Middle Eastit is my duty as UN Secretary-General to make two strong humanitarian appeals,” António Guterres said in a statement.

His appeal to Hamas is to immediately release the hostages without conditions. And Israel should provide quick and unhindered access to humanitarian aid to the civilians in Gaza.

“Our selfless staff on the ground, together with NGO partners, must be able to bring these supplies safely into and through Gaza,” Guterres said.

These goals should not become bargaining chips and must be implemented, the UN Secretary-General appealed, adding that it is “the right thing to do”.

‘Gaza is suffocating’

Similar requests came earlier on Sunday UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini.

Talking to reporters in East Jerusalem, the head of the UN agency dealing with Palestinian refugees warned that his colleagues in Gaza were no longer able to provide humanitarian aid.

“UNRWA operations are the largest UN footprint in the Gaza Strip and we are on the brink of collapse,” he said, explaining that “not a drop of water, not a grain of wheat, not a liter of fuel” had been allowed into the Gaza Strip for the past eight days.

And soon, he added, there would be no food or medicine. Thousands of people have been killed, including children and women. Gaza is now even running out of body bags, the UNRWA chief lamented.

“In fact, Gaza is being suffocated and it seems that the world has lost its humanity right now,” he stressed.

At least one million people were forced to flee their homes in one week alone, and “a river of people continues to flow south”.

‘Nothing less than collective punishment’

At least 400,000 displaced people are now in UNRWA schools and buildings, most of which are not equipped as emergency shelters. Most of the 13,000 UNRWA staff in the Gaza Strip have now been displaced.

Children from families housed in an UNRWA school in Gaza eat bread distributed by the World Food Program (WFP).

Children from families housed in an UNRWA school in Gaza eat bread distributed by the World Food Program (WFP).

“We as UNRWA have already lost 14 staff. They were teachers, engineers, guards and psychologists, an engineer and a gynecologist,” Mr Lazzarini said.

To maintain operations after the Israeli ultimatum, the UNRWA team in Gaza moved to Rafah, and is now working in the same building that houses thousands of desperate displaced people, who are also rationing their food and water.

The sanitary conditions are terrible, Mr. Lazzarini continued. “Old people, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities are just being stripped of their basic human dignity and it’s a total disgrace!”

“The siege of Gaza, the way it is being imposed, is nothing short of collective punishment,” he stressed, demanding the immediate safe passage of essential supplies such as fuel, water, food and medicine.

Tensions along the blue line

The conflict now threatens to spill over into the wider region.

UNIFILThe United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, stated that intense exchanges of fire in several areas along Blue line between Lebanese territory and Israel was observed during Sunday. There have been impacts on both sides of the unofficial border that separates the two countries.

Blue line equipment maintenance

UNIFIL CHINMEU/Ding Wendong

Blue line equipment maintenance

“Our headquarters in Naqoura was hit by a rocket and we are working to verify from where,” UNIFIL announcement reader. The operation’s peacekeepers were not in shelters at the time, but no one was injured.

Actively working with the authorities on both sides of the Blue Line to de-escalate the situation, UNIFIL urges all parties involved to cease fire and allow peacekeepers to help find solutions.

“No one wants to see more people injured or killed,” the statement stressed, expressing regret that the military escalation continues.

WHO scales up response capacity

The heightened tensions on the border between Israel and southern Lebanon prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to increase its capacity to provide immediate access to life-saving medical care to civilians there.

Two shipments arrived in Beirut today from WHO’s logistics hub in Dubai. They include enough surgical and trauma medications and supplies to meet the needs of 800 to 1,000 wounded patients.

In a statement, the UN agency explained that Lebanon’s health system has been crippled by an ongoing economic crisis, the 2020 Beirut port bombing and the added burden of the Syrian refugee crisis.

The Lebanese Ministry of Health is in the process of identifying the referral hospitals that will receive the vital supplies from the WHO.


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