21.05.2021, 09:28

WHO issues 7 million USD emergency appeal to tackle health crisis in Gaza and West Bank

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues with raging violence, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday issued an urgent appeal for $7 million needed over six months in response to a health crisis in Gaza and the West Bank where the most offensive is concentrated.

WHO issues 7 million USD emergency appeal to tackle health crisis in Gaza and West Bank

Mourners carry the body of Yousef Abu Hussein, an al-Aqsa radio reporter killed during an Israeli airstrike, during his funeral outside the main mosque in Gaza on Wednesday. Photo AP

WHO said the funds would "enable a comprehensive emergency response in the next six months" in Gaza as well in the occupied West Bank, which has also seen a surge in protests and violent street clashes.

"In the Gaza Strip, the severity of injuries is straining an already overwhelmed health system," said Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region.

The health system in the crowded enclave "is facing critical shortages of essential medicines and supplies while also battling the Covid-19 pandemic," he said in an online press conference.

The death toll as per the health ministry in Gaza as per Wednesday crossed 227 including 64 children and 38 women. In Israel, at least 12 people have died as airstrike exchange continues amid heightened global pressure to end the offensive.

Earlier, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in remarks to the Security Council meeting on Sunday and called for an immediate end to ‘utterly appalling’ violence. “Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately,” he said. “Rockets and mortars on one side and aerial and artillery bombardments on the other must stop. I appeal to all parties to heed this call.” He further said, “The fighting risks dragging Israelis and Palestinians into a spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region.”

A building destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on Wednesday. Photo AFP

Senior World Health Organization officials called on Thursday for a humanitarian pause in bombardment of the Gaza Strip to allow access for aid as the health system in the territory faces critical shortages, Reuters reported.

"The closure of entry and exit points for patients and humanitarian health assistance and the severe restrictions on the entry of medical supplies is exacerbating this public health crisis," said Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO's regional director.

Hamas official predicts ceasefire soon

A senior Hamas official predicted a ceasefire within days in the Israel-Gaza conflict, after US President Joe Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek a "de-escalation" in the fighting.

Rocket fire into Israel died down overnight, a lull that stretched into Thursday morning. Israel was launching new air strikes in Gaza after daybreak, but, Israeli media said, at a slower pace than in past days.

Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Photo AP

An Egyptian security source said the sides had agreed in principle to a ceasefire after help from mediators but details were still being negotiated in secret.

"I think that the ongoing efforts regarding the ceasefire will succeed," the Hamas political official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told Lebanon's al-Mayadeen TV. "I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement."

Netanyahu ‘determined’ to continue in Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Wednesday to press ahead with a fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip, pushing back against calls from the United States to wind down the operation that has left hundreds dead.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo News Combo

Netanyahu's tough comments marked the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began last week and could complicate international efforts to reach a cease-fire. His pushback also plunges the pair into a difficult early test of the U.S.-Israel relationship, cited AP.

Israel continued to pound Hamas targets in Gaza with airstrikes, while Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with rocket fire throughout the day. In another sign of potential escalation, militants in Lebanon fired a rocket barrage into northern Israel.

After a visit to military headquarters, Netanyahu said he appreciated the support of the American president, but he said Israel would push ahead to return ?calm and security to Israeli citizens.

He said he was determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.

He spoke shortly after US President Joe Biden told Netanyahu that he expected "a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire, the White House said.

Biden had previously avoided pressing Israel more directly and publicly for a cease-fire with Gaza's Hamas militant rulers. But pressure has been building for Biden to intervene more forcefully as other diplomatic efforts gather strength./.

Rosemary Nguyen