UN refutes U.S. claim about safe places in Gaza

UNITED NATIONS: A UN spokesperson on Tuesday refuted the U.S. claim that civilians in Gaza should seek refuge in UN-designated safe places.

In response to U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller’s suggestion on Monday that Gazans should seek refuge in UN-designated sites that are listed by Israel as “deconfliction zones,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said there are no such things in Gaza.

“Well, let’s be clear. There are no UN-designated safe zones in Gaza. I think all my senior colleagues have been very clear, including the secretary-general, saying there are no safe places in Gaza,” said Dujarric.

“There are shelters that fly the UN flag that are sheltering thousands and thousands and thousands of people – men, women and children who are trying to stay alive and get some food, get some water. We have seen, since the beginning of this conflict, that those places that fly the UN flag are not safe either,” he said.

Since the truce collapsed, Israel has been posting an online map to tell Gazans which parts of the enclave to evacuate.

Gazans claim there is nowhere safe to go, with remaining towns and shelters already overwhelmed and Israel continuing to bomb the areas where it is telling people to go, Reuters reported.

In what they described as the most intense day of combat in five weeks of ground operations against Hamas militants, Israeli forces stormed southern Gaza’s main city on Tuesday. Hospitals were overrun with scores of dead and injured Palestinians.

Israel claimed its troops, backed by warplanes, had reached the heart of Khan Younis and surrounded the city in what appeared to be the biggest ground attack in Gaza since a truce with Hamas unraveled last week, Reuters reported.

Israeli forces have killed at least 16,248 people, including 7,112 children and 4,885 women, in Gaza since October 7, a statement from the Hamas media office said on Tuesday.

A displaced Palestinian sits with his belongings at a camp in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip after fleeing Khan Younis, December 4, 2023. /CFP

A displaced Palestinian sits with his belongings at a camp in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip after fleeing Khan Younis, December 4, 2023. /CFP

Record of displaced monitored

The UN said on Tuesday that it has monitored a record number of Palestinians who have been displaced to the city of Rafah, in the far south of the Gaza Strip, to escape Israeli attacks.

In a press statement, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that tens of thousands of displaced people from the neighboring Khan Younis have arrived in Rafah in the past 48 hours.

Most newly arrived people settled in the city’s streets and empty spaces, where they set up tents and temporary shelters, as the shelters in Rafah have far exceeded their capacity.

In addition to the area inside the city of Khan Younis, residents from the communities east of Khan Younis, Al-Qarara, Khuza’a, Abasan and Bani Suhaila were ordered to move south to Rafah.

These areas, which occupy 69 square kilometers and constitute 19 percent of the land area of the Gaza Strip, were home to about 352,000 people before the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Israeli army also ordered residents to evacuate from the eastern part of Gaza City and Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip towards the western areas of the enclave.

These areas make up about 6 percent of the Gaza Strip’s total land area and were home to about 415,000 people before the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The number of individuals departing the area in response to the most recent Israeli evacuation order is yet unknown, as many nearby residents have already been evacuated.

Overall, it is estimated that about 1.8 million people in Gaza, or nearly 80 percent of the total population, are internally displaced, according to the OCHA.

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