Gaza – Trapped by Violence
30 December: Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes called for the respect of international humanitarian law following Israel’s attacks against Hamas in Gaza launched on 27 December. Mr. Holmes stressed that international humanitarian law demanded a “proportionate response and very clear distinction between combatants and civilians, and it’s very hard to say that this is what’s happening in the present attacks on Gaza, although of course we also know that the [Hamas] rockets themselves are indiscriminate in their effects.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on both Israel and Hamas to “halt their act of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties. A ceasefire must be declared immediately.” The Secretary-General also urged Arab foreign ministers to bring an end to this impasse at an upcoming emergency meeting. Members of the Security Council have expressed their concern and have called for all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza.
According to OCHA’s humanitarian situation report dated 28 December, the Israeli operation resulted in one of the highest single-day death tolls recorded in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967. During a press conference yesterday, Mr. Holmes said that, based on his latest information, there were 320 dead on the Palestinian side and 1,400 people injured. Information from UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) indicates that 62 of the casualties were women and children.
In an urgent joint letter to the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Commissioner-General of UNRWA Karen Abu Zayd and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) Robert Serry expressed deep concern about the safety of UN personnel and installations in the Gaza Strip and requested specific and immediate undertakings regarding their security.