UN Officials Address Humanitarian Needs In Gaza

United Nations officials said suffering stemming from Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip is being compounded by shortages of food, medical supplies, and other basic needs.

U.N. officials have expressed alarm at the number of civilian casualties that have been reported since Israel launched the attacks in Gaza. U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes spoke at a news conference in New York.

"I think the scale of casualties on the Palestinian side reflects the fact that, however hard you try to target in circumstances such as those of Gaza with a large population in a small area, civilian casualties are almost impossible to avoid. And that is particularly true when so many locations are being targeted," he said.

Holmes noted that, even before Israel launched the air campaign, Gaza was experiencing severe material shortages. The undersecretary said Israel has allowed several dozen trucks bearing supplies to enter Gaza, but he said the flow is insufficient.

"The problem is, because of the effective blockade that has been in place for many months now, and because of the increasing tightening of this blockade in recent weeks around Gaza, the stocks of some vital items are either very low or non-existent, and that is particularly the case for wheat flour. So we are starting off from a very poor position," he said.

Holmes noted that 100 trucks would have to enter Gaza daily in order to meet the needs of the civilian population. He said that, not only is a cessation of hostilities vital to salvaging any hopes of peace in the region, it is also indispensable for alleviating the humanitarian situation.

Also taking part in the news conference through a video link was the commissioner-general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, Karen AbuZayd, who painted a picture of fear and chaos in Gaza.  AbuZayd said she is concerned that the situation will grow even worse if Israel launches a ground offensive into the territory.

"Because the targets have moved from being the Hamas institutions, police stations and so on to individual houses - people are being warned to evacuate their houses - it has become very unpredictable. People do not know where to be. And now [there is] the fear of the [Israeli] land invasion everyone has been expecting. So if this has been bad, having targeted air strikes all around, we are very much afraid of what it would mean if the troops are coming in by land."

News reports said several nations, including Spain and Iran, are attempting to send supplies to the Palestinian territories, either through Egypt or via humanitarian organizations in the region. 

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs