Senior UN official in Gaza: civilians trapped amid intensified attacks in Khan Younis

25 January 2024

From Thomas White, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza 

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Khan Younis Training Centre before and after 7 October 2023 photos


Persistent attacks on civilian sites in Khan Younis are utterly unacceptable and must stop immediately. People are being killed and injured. As fighting intensifies around hospitals and shelters hosting the displaced, people are trapped inside and lifesaving operations are impeded. 

As fighting intensified over the past days in the area of our training centre, hosting thousands of people, twelve people have now been confirmed dead with over 75 injuries, 15 of whom are in a critical condition. Yesterday, the centre was hit by two shells and caught fire. 

A number of missions to assess the situation were denied. Yesterday evening, the UN finally managed to reach the affected areas to treat trauma patients, bring medical supplies and evacuate injured patients to Rafah. 

Heavy fighting near the remaining hospitals in Khan Younis, including Nasser and Al Amal has effectively encircled these facilities, leaving terrified staff, patients and displaced people trapped inside. Al Khair hospital has shut down after patients, including women who had just undergone C-section surgeries, were evacuated in the middle of the night. 

The situation in Khan Younis underscores a consistent failure to uphold the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law: distinction, proportionality and precautions in carrying out attacks. This is unacceptable and abhorrent and must stop. 

Every measure must be taken to protect civilians. I remind all parties that protection of hospitals, clinics, medical personnel and UN premises is explicitly enshrined within international law.” 

Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

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