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UN: Gaza healthcare system ‘completely out of service’, 700 Gazans killed in a single day

The main UN agency in Gaza said it would be forced to halt its operations by Wednesday evening (Thursday morning Eastern Time) due to fuel shortages.

The UN shutdown will further exacerbate the humanitarian crisis as Israeli airstrikes on besieged Gaza have reportedly killed more than 700 people overnight.

Gaza is running out of fuel to keep working hospitals, bakeries and other vital organisations in the region. Earlier, the UN Secretary-General called for an immediate ceasefire on both sides of the conflict to allow humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinians. His call sparked fierce controversy at the UN, and Israel has called for his resignation. Guterres said:

“Protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than one million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel – and then continuing to bomb the south itself. It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation. They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished.”

He called Hamas’ killings and kidnappings of Israelis “appalling” but said they “cannot justify collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Your Excellencies, even war has rules.” Israeli diplomats met his comments sharply. Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan called on Guterres to “resign immediately” after his remarks and said he was “unfit to lead the UN”, writing on social media. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who was at the UN, said he refused to meet with Guterres and that “there is no room for a balanced approach here.” Cohen wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter:

“Hamas must be erased off the face of the planet!”

Gaza’s Health Ministry has repeatedly warned that hospitals are on the verge of closure and hundreds of new patients arriving hourly as a result of shelling, as well as babies in need of oxygen, will die if fuel is not brought to the region.

The consumption of dirty, salty water and deteriorating sanitation have raised fears that a health crisis may be looming as people begin to die of dehydration as a result of the destruction of the water supply as bombing continues. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) wrote on social media:

“If we do not get fuel urgently, we will be forced to halt our operations in the Gaza Strip as of tomorrow night.”

According to UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma, Gaza requires about 160,000 litres of fuel daily to meet basic needs. Only eight of the 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid that were supposed to cross the Gaza border today reached the site. The reasons why the remaining aid was unable to pass through the Rafah crossing are not yet known.

Since the Israeli siege of Gaza has begun a fortnight ago, six hospitals have been forced to close due to fuel shortages, the World Health Organisation reports. Among those at risk of death or medical complications are “1,000 dialysis-dependent patients,” “130 premature babies” and other vulnerable patients “whose lives depend on a stable and uninterrupted supply of electricity,” the WHO said in a statement.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) says Hamas is using fuel to continue firing rockets, therefore preventing fuel supplies to Gaza. These comments do not coincide with previous statements by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, who said:

“We will make sure there will be fuel in places where they need fuel to treat civilians. We will not allow the fuel for Hamas so they can continue fighting against the citizens of Israel”.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is intensifying and the international community is still unable to reach a consensus. Washington rejects calls for a cease-fire, and National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN on Monday that Hamas must first release all hostages held in Gaza without conditions.

Two sources familiar with the situation and a Western diplomat familiar with the talks said negotiations to free the large number of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza are ongoing but are complicated by a number of factors.

The negotiations involve the US, Israel, Qatar, Egypt, Egypt and Hamas. So far, four hostages have been released – two American and two Israeli. But the plan now is to negotiate the release of a larger group of hostages at once.

Israel has so far refrained from a ground invasion of Gaza, and the US is pushing for it to further delay in order to free more hostages. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Israel’s task is to bring all the hostages home. He claimed:

“While we are still here, there are babies that are in captivity, twins, holocaust survivors, and we have one mission: To bring them home.”

US military advisers are also urging the Israeli army to avoid an all-out ground offensive on the Gaza Strip and not to use the brutal urban warfare tactics the US waged against insurgents during the Iraq war to prevent the Israelis from getting bogged down in bloody house-to-house fighting.

However, on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to tell soldiers that the ground offensive was still ongoing, saying:

“We are facing the next phase. It’s coming.”

The conflict erupted on 7 October when Hamas began shelling Israel and mass kidnappings, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking more than 200 hostages. Following the attack, Israel launched Operation Iron Swords on the same day, with continuous aerial bombardment of Gaza, which has already killed more than 5,000 people, according to Palestinian medics.

More than 700 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours, the highest 24-hour death toll since Israeli strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip began, the Palestinian health ministry said. The dead include 305 children, 173 women and 78 elderly people. The population of 140 square miles of Gaza is about two million people, half of whom are children.

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