UN urges Israel, Hamas to avoid violence on Gaza anniversary
CAIRO – 29 March 2019: The UN humanitarian official for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, has urged Israel and Hamas to avoid violent escalations.
In a Friday statement, McGoldrick outlined the “staggering” human costs that a year of conflicts and demonstrations has resulted, especially on the Children of Gaza.
McGoldrick further revealed – on the occasion of the eve of the one-year mark of the start of the “Great March of Return” demonstrations in the Gaza Strip – that between 30 March 2018 and 22 March 2019, 195 Palestinians, including some 40 children, have been killed by Israeli security forces in the “Great March of Return” demonstrations, mainly during the weekly protests near the perimeter fence.
“In the past year, there has been a staggering loss of life and injury in the Gaza Strip,” said McGoldrick. “Among the most tragic impacts have been the deaths and injury of children.”
Palestinian protesters take part in a night demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 19, 2019. (AFP/Said Khatib)
The mass influx of casualties has overwhelmed the already fragile Gaza health system and adversely affected the capacity and quality of healthcare. Many suffered extensive bone and tissue damage from gunshot wounds, requiring complex surgeries and, potentially, long-term care.
Nearly 29,000 Palestinians have been injured in this context, including over 7,000 wounded by live ammunition. Three clearly-marked health workers providing care to the wounded during demonstrations have been killed and over 630 others injured.
Moreover, the large number of casualties among unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, including a high percentage of demonstrators injured by live ammunition, has raised concerns about the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces. As a result of the demonstrations, one member of the Israeli security forces was killed and six others were injured.
The “Great March of Return” demonstrations are occurring against the backdrop of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis facing the Gaza Strip, negatively affecting the livelihoods and access to essential services of two million residents, 70 per cent of whom are Palestine refugees.
This crisis has been driven by over 11 years of an Israeli blockade and an unresolved internal Palestinian divide. As a consequence, over half of the population is unemployed and most families struggle to meet their most basic needs.