GENEVA: The heads of several United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations said on Thursday that they would not take part in Gaza “safe zones” declared by only one side in the conflict.
“As humanitarian leaders, our position is clear: We will not participate in the establishment of any ‘safe zone’ in Gaza without the agreement of all parties,” the joint statement said. they said.
“Under the prevailing circumstances, proposals to unilaterally establish ‘safe zones’ in Gaza risk harm to civilians, including large-scale loss of life, and should be rejected.”
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Israel has been urging the population of northern Gaza to evacuate to the south for more than a month as it continues its war against Hamas in Palestinian territory.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in retaliation for the October 7 attacks, which it said killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 239 hostages.
According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, sustained bombardment and growing ground offensives have killed more than 11,500 people, mostly civilians and thousands of children.
Thursday’s statement, signed by the heads of nearly a dozen U.N. agencies including humanitarian affairs, human rights, migration, refugees, children and health, emphasized that “intense hostilities and large-scale destruction of civilian infrastructure” have displaced nearly 1.6 million people. People in Gaza.
The UN criticized Israel’s call for civilians in Gaza to be evacuated to so-called safe areas in the south, warning that no part of the overcrowded region is currently safe.
“None of the humanitarian organizations we represent have participated in preparations for the possible arrival of displaced persons in any ‘safe zone’ or ‘humanitarian zone’ in Gaza,” Thursday’s statement said.
They said the organizations were all committed to providing assistance and protection, but warned that “the concentration of civilians in such areas in the context of active hostilities without the right conditions could increase the risk of attack and additional harm.”
“No ‘safe zone’ declared unilaterally or enforced by the presence of armed forces is truly safe.”
The signatories said they could not take part in establishing the zones “unless basic conditions to ensure security and other basic needs are met.”
They said there should also be a mechanism to monitor the implementation.
They also emphasized that “any discussion of ‘safe areas’ should not detract from parties’ obligations to exercise ongoing care to protect civilians and meet their basic needs – wherever they are.”
“The civilian population in Gaza must have access to basic needs for survival, including food, water, shelter, hygiene, healthcare, aid and security,” the statement said.
“Humanitarian organizations need to have access to sufficient fuel to deliver aid and provide basic services,” the statement said.
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