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UNRWA chief Lazzarini: People in Gaza “as if hollowed out”


Omer Messinger / THE MIRROR

The director of the UN's Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, reported in Jerusalem about catastrophic humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip.

Philippe Lazzarini, who had just returned from his fourth visit to Gaza since the war began, said he saw people who were "traumatized, hollowed out and just in survival mode."

85 percent of the residents were evicted from their homes, and many lived in informal housing.

In Rafah alone in the south, on the Egyptian border, 1.4 to 1.5 million people live and camp, says Lazzarini: "Sometimes just five meters from the border strip." There is hardly any clean water or sanitation, and diseases are spreading .

Many people are extremely worried that the Israeli army (IDF) could move into Rafah after the fighting further north.

According to Lazzarini, there is no longer any place where people can flee.

Egypt has “sealed” the border to the Gaza Strip with, among other things, additional barbed wire.

The UNRWA chief also expressed concern about a possible Israeli occupation of the border strip between Gaza and Egypt (“Philadelphi Passage”), because UNRWA handles all aid deliveries through this access.

Lazzarini rejects allegations against his organization

Israel is already largely rejecting aid convoys to the north, where tens of thousands of people are still waiting.

Israel denies the allegations.

If a convoy does come through, it will be attacked by starving people, as it was a few days ago, and proper distribution would be impossible.

According to the UNRWA director, the situation there is particularly dire: "The north is a disaster area, there is nothing left there." He rejected the Israeli accusation that the UN was to blame for the lack of aid deliveries being processed.

Lazzarini announced that he would present a plan for an investigation into UNRWA's work within a week.

This should examine the many allegations made against the organization.

Israel alleges, for example, that the organization tolerates tunnels under its schools and that teachers from UNRWA schools celebrated the terrorist attack on October 7th.

According to the NGO UN Watch, a number of UNRWA teachers literally glorified the perpetrators of the massacre.

Many of the perpetrators also used to go to UNRWA schools.

Basically, Israel accuses the organization of using its work to establish the status of its descendants as Palestine refugees.

Of course, investigating the individual allegations, especially on site in Gaza, would be difficult during the war, says Lazzarini: "But we have nothing to hide.

And we have to find a way to publish the truth." He described the public accusations against UNRWA as a "smear campaign."

The Swiss has been Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for almost four years.

The aid organization looks after a total of 5.9 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants - in Gaza before the war there were around 1.4 million people, i.e. around two thirds of all residents.

According to UNRWA, around a million people are currently living in the organization's emergency shelters.