The UN health agency has added its weight to calls for regular humanitarian access to Gaza, where two dozen medical facilities have now come under attack through Israeli air strikes, along with healthcare personnel.

The UN has called for a humanitarian pause in hostilities in Gaza as more people are killed. Photo: UNOCHA/Samar Elouf

In a World Health Organization (WHO) press conference on Thursday, senior officials highlighted the “almost total destruction” of the central COVID-19 testing lab in Gaza City, along with “severe restrictions” on deliveries of medical supplies.

Key needs from the health agency include an end to the violence, ensuring the protection of civilians and healthcare facilities, and support for emergency medical treatment.

Dr Richard Brennan, WHO Regional Emergency Director, highlighted rising concerns over the lack of access through the regular crossing points to Gaza:

“We need a ceasefire, we need humanitarian pauses, we need humanitarian access, we need all the crossings open…to let the aid in and the sick and injured out.”

The head of WHO’s office in the West Bank and Gaza, Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, also urged immediate aid access.

“It’s incredibly frustrating, but it is deeply sad for the people of Gaza. That is why we call on all parties to actually agree to this humanitarian pause to make sure that this humanitarian convoy has access to Gaza.”

He said access needed to be assured for the coming weeks and months, “to assist Gaza with acute needs, but also then with building up…health infrastructure and health systems, to make sure that we get functioning primary healthcare systems on the ground as soon as possible”.

Deaths, injuries continue

Latest UN data indicates that the clashes – which are the most serious since conflict of 2014 – have claimed the lives of at least 219 Palestinians, including 64 children and 36 women, and injured thousands more.

There have also been at least 12 fatalities in Israel, including two children, and hundreds of injuries, from rockets fired by Hamas, which has controlled the enclave since 2006, and other militant groups.

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) confirmed that six Palestinians had been killed during Wednesday, including at least two civilians, one of whom was a girl.

The UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, said in a flash update from the region covering 12pm on Tuesday to noon on Wednesday local time, that hostilities had resulted in additional displacement of Palestinians, bringing the cumulative number of internally displaced (IDPs) in the 10 days of fighting to about 75,000, including 47,000 seeking protection in 58 UNRWA schools across Gaza.

“Another 28,700 displaced people are staying with host families”, the latest update stated.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem also intensified during the reporting period, according to OCHA. Three Palestinians were killed, and 1,485 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces.

Two foreign nationals were killed in Israel from Palestinian fire on Wednesday, both workers from Thailand, in the country on temporary programmes.