Palestine Red Crescent Society: ‘Health sector is under attack’
Marwan Jilani, Director General of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, provided an overview of recent events, noting that he had to rewrite his statement several times as the situation is “changing by the minute”.
People are getting shot at “as we speak”, with 20 injured due to direct fire at the Al Quds hospital in Gaza City. Thousands are under imminent threat of being killed, he warned.
He said there were 14,000 displaced civilians at Al Quds, with the main generator shut off due to lack of fuel. Now there is “serious risk” that all intensive care patients and babies on incubators, could die.
He said diseases were beginning to spread.
He said 36 members of one senior medic’s family had been killed. The description of mass death, could not do justice to the horrors and trauma of sleeping under the “terrorizing bombardment”, he said, calling for fuel to be urgently allowed into the Gaza Strip.
He said many would starve or die of disease with fuel. He called on the Council to demand an effective and immediate ceasefire, together with emergency aid for the north of Gaza.
“Listen to the cries of children soaked in blood”, he said, who are wondering why the world is so indifferent to their lives.
Tedros said having lived through war as a child and a parent, he well understood the suffering and horror being experienced in Gaza today.
Expressing a long-held view, he said the organ does not serve the purpose for which it was established and not for the 21st century, adding that “to remain credible, relevant and a force for peace in our world, Member States…must take seriously the need to reform the Security Council.”
Urgent aid, now
The WHO chief said the best way to support them is providing what health workers need to save lives. About 63 tonnes of such aid has been sent, but unfettered access is needed to reach the civilians, who are not responsible for the crisis.
An average of 500 trucks per day crossed into Gaza with essential supplies. Since 21 October only 650 aid trucks have entered the enclave, he said.
WHO continued to call for a ceasefire. He also called on Hamas to release the hostages and on Israel to restore supplies of water, electricity and especially fuel. He also called for both sides to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.
“I understand what the children of Gaza must be going through because as a child, I went through the same,” he said, recalling the sounds of tracer bullets, gunfire and “the smell and images” of war. “I know what war means.”
Israeli and Palestinian children and families want peace and security.
The situation on the ground in Gaza is grim said the WHO chief, from hospitals conducting operations without anaesthetics to the fact that a child is killed every ten minutes.
“Nowhere and no one is safe,” he said, adding that medical staff are grappling to try to manage the health needs of 2.3 million people.
Health system is ‘on its knees’
Since the start of the conflict, there have been more than 250 attacks on health centres in Gaza and 25 in Israel. More than 100 UN colleagues have been killed. Half of Gaza’s hospitals are not functioning at all, and the remaining are operation way beyond their capacities.
“The health system is on its knees,” he said.
Tedros said he fully understood the anger and grief of the Israeli people following the “barbaric” Hamas attacks. The killing of 1,400 was “incomprehensible” he added, noting the mental health consequences for survivors would continue for a long time.
He said he was gravely concerned for the hostages still being held. He said he would meet with more families next week in Geneva.
He said he also understood the anger, grief and fear of the people of Gaza, suffering “the destruction of their families, their homes, their communities and the life they knew.”
Israel and Palestine have both been invited to take part in the meeting, without objection.
First to speak will be the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
China’s ambassador brings the 9472nd meeting of the Council to order. They hold the chair for this month. Everybody is standing for a minute of silence for all those who lost their lives in Israel due to the 7 October attacks and all those Palestinian civilians who have died during the fighting.
Ambassadors and their delegations are still making their way into the Security Council chamber, and beginning to take their seats around the iconic horseshoe table. Some are having animated conversations ahead of the start.
After multiple efforts to find a unified response since the initial terror attacks by Hamas on 7 October and full-scale siege and incursion into Gaza by Israeli forces, the Security Council is meeting to hear a briefing by World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and by the Director General of the Palestine Red Crescent Society Marwan Jilani on the current situation on the ground.
The United Arab Emirates called for the meeting, citing “the spiraling health crisis amidst continued attacks on hospitals.”
This will be the seventh time that the Council has convened on the current crisis since 7 October.
“We keep hoping and yearning for a united message from the Security Council to see an end to the conflict in Gaza; it hasn’t happened,” Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, told reporters at UN Headquarters earlier on Friday.
This week, the Council had met privately to discuss the matter. At the same time, the General Assembly has resumed its resumed tenth emergency special session on the crisis.
Here are the highlights from the Security Council’s last open meeting on 30 October on the deteriorating situation:
- UAE and China called for the emergency meeting after Israel expanded its ground operations into Gaza
- Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, briefed ambassadors on the dire humanitarian situation in the ravaged enclave, stressing women and children cannot be “collateral damage”
- UNICEF chief Catherine Russell outlined the impact on children on both sides who are experiencing terrible trauma, “the consequences of which could last a lifetime”
- Lisa Doughten, senior UN humanitarian official from OCHA, underscored the need for a pause in the fighting to provide respite for desperate civilians “living under unimaginably traumatic conditions”
- Security Council members recalled the General Assembly’s resolution on the crisis, reiterating that international humanitarian law must be respected, adopted on 27 October at its resumed emergency special session
Visit our explainers on how the Security Council works during a crisis and negotiates resolutions or ends up in deadlock and what is a UN General Assembly emergency special session and why it matters. Check out more of our explainers here.