UN human rights official warns Security Council of ‘very real’ risk of atrocities in Gaza

GENEVA: Israel is consistently blocking humanitarian convoys into northern Gaza, making it increasingly challenging to bring desperately needed fuel and other aid to hospitals there, the UN said.
After planning aid missions to the north, UN agencies said their convoys were subjected to slow and unpredictable inspections and then a near-systematic refusal from the Israeli side to proceed.
“Operations in the north (are) increasingly more complicated,” Andrea De Domenico, head of the UN aid agency OCHA’s office in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Speaking from Jerusalem at a virtual press briefing, he described how detailed coordination was required with a network of checkpoints, and “the Israelis have systematically, or quasi-systematically, refused” to let them through.

BACKGROUND

The UN has long described desperate scenes in the few barely functioning northern hospitals, facing severe shortages of food, clean water, medicines, and fuel.

In recent days, he said the agency had had three missions partially approved out of 21 requested.
Lucia Elmi, special representative for the UN children’s agency UNICEF in the Palestinian territories, also lamented that “we can’t get sufficient aid in.”
“The inspection process remains slow and unpredictable, and some of the materials we desperately need remain restricted, with no clear justification,” she said.
De Domenico said the Israeli military was particularly wary about allowing fuel into the north, especially to hospitals.
“They have been very systematic not to allow us to support hospitals, which is reaching a level of inhumanity that, for me, is beyond comprehension,” he said.
The UN’s World Health Organization, meanwhile, said that it had finally on Thursday managed to reach Al-Shifa Hospital in the north for the first time in over two weeks, after seven failed attempts.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X, formerly Twitter, that the mission allowed the delivery of desperately needed aid, including 9,300 liters of fuel.
He said “the team reported that Al-Shifa, previously Gaza’s premier hospital, has (partially) re-established services.”
The hospital, which WHO described as “a death zone” after it largely ceased operations following raids and occupation by Israeli troops in November, now has 60 medical staff, Tedros said.
It also has “a surgical and medical ward with 40 beds, an emergency department, four operating theaters, basic emergency obstetric and gynecologic services.”
Hospitals, protected under international humanitarian law, have repeatedly been hit by alleged Israeli strikes in Gaza since the war erupted.
The Israeli military accuses Hamas of having tunnels under hospitals and using the medical facilities as command centers, a charge denied by the Islamist group.
Only 15 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are partially functioning, most in the south.
The UN has long described desperate scenes in the few barely functioning northern hospitals, facing severe shortages of food, clean water, medicines, and fuel.
While the partial resumption of services at Al-Shifa was good news, Tedros emphasized that “fuel consumption is much higher, and the need for medical supplies is increasing.”
Elmi meanwhile stressed the urgency of allowing more aid through, especially for Gaza’s children.
“Children in Gaza are running out of time, while most of the lifesaving humanitarian aid they desperately need remains stranded between insufficient access corridors and protracted layers of inspections,” she said.
“Mounting needs and a constrained response is a formula for a disaster of epic proportions.”