29 March 2019

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section, United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Refugee Agency and the United Nations Development Programme.

Gaza 

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), gave the following statement:

“Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations in the Gaza Strip. In this past year, there has been a staggering loss of life and injury in the Gaza Strip: 195 Palestinians, including some 40 children, have been killed by Israeli security forces mainly during the weekly protests near the perimeter fence. Nearly 29,000 Palestinians have been injured, including over 7,000 people by live ammunition. Three clearly-marked health workers providing care to the wounded during demonstrations have been killed and over 630 others injured. As a result of the demonstrations, one member of the Israeli security forces was killed and six others were injured. The many Palestinian casualties – including trauma injuries and more than 120 limb amputations – has overwhelmed the Gaza health system which was already challenged by chronic power outages, shortages of essential medicines and supplies, and gaps in critical services including mental health and psychosocial support. In a statement this morning, on the eve of the one-year anniversary, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, said that ‘the priority now is to save lives and everyone needs to take action accordingly. Israeli security forces must ensure that their responses are in line with their international legal obligations, using non-violent means to the greatest extent possible. Hamas authorities must prevent acts of violence that compromise the peaceful nature of the demonstrations and everyone must ensure that children are not put in harm’s way.”

Replying to a journalist, Mr. Laerke said that the demonstration that had been planned for that day had been cancelled, but a large demonstration was expected for the next day, 30 March, which was the reason for OCHA’s stark reminder to all parties about the need to protect lives, especially those of children.

In response to the same question, Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva(UNIS), drew attention to the briefing of the Security Council of 26 March by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, available online. Following the situation in Gaza closely, Mr. N. Mladenov had stated that he and his team had been working intensely with Egypt and all concerned parties to ensure that the situation did not spiral out of control. No one had an interest in a full military confrontation in Gaza, he said, as he urged all sides to exercise maximum restraint while the situation remains very tense in the area.

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