‘Running Out of Words to Describe Gaza’ – UN Officials Urge Ceasefire

UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland. (Photo: Eskinder Debebe, United Nations)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“We have described it as a catastrophe, a nightmare, as hell on earth. It is all of these, and worse.”

UN officials have warned that the Gaza Strip faces another precipice of further catastrophe in the enclave amid stalled negotiations for a ceasefire, saying they have run out of words to describe the situation.

“The situation is becoming increasingly desperate and dangerous for the already besieged population,” the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, told a UN Security Council session on Monday.

“Regrettably we face yet another precipice of further catastrophe in Gaza amid stalled talks between the parties to secure the release of all hostages held in Gaza and a ceasefire to provide much needed relief to the civilian population,” Wesseland stressed.

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He highlighted that “just two weeks ago” negotiations were ongoing in Cairo, but “ended on 9 May without agreement.”

‘Redouble Ceasefire Efforts’

Wennesland urged the parties “to redouble all efforts and return to the negotiating table immediately and in good faith.”

“If talks do not resume, I fear for the worst for the beleaguered and terrified civilians in Rafah, for the hostages held in unimaginable conditions for more than 225 days, and for an overstretched humanitarian operation that remains on the brink inside the Strip,” he said.

Despite Hamas accepting a ceasefire proposal on May 6, Israel decided to press ahead with a ground invasion of Rafah.

Israel reportedly said the truce offer accepted by Hamas does not meet its key demands, and issued evacuation orders for Palestinians in the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah and called on them to move to the town of Al-Mawasi in southern Gaza.

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800,000 Displaced

“Since operations began, more than 800,000 people have been displaced from Rafah to Mawasi, Khan Younis and Deir al Balah,” amid daily Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, “killing dozens of Palestinians,” Wennesland emphasized.

He said these events have significantly impacted humanitarian operations and access.

“The so-called expanded humanitarian area in al-Mawasi lacks adequate shelter, food, water and sewage infrastructure and crossings for the entry of humanitarian goods have already been directly affected,” Wennesland pointed out.

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In addition, he said, “active hostilities” and Israeli military operations “continue to render nowhere safe in Gaza, including for humanitarian workers.”

“Just last week a staff member of the UN Department of Safety and Security from India died and another staff member was seriously injured when their UN vehicle was struck as they travelled to the European Hospital in Rafah Governorate.”

UN Staff Killed

This brought to a total of 193 UN staff who have been killed in Gaza since the start of hostilities, he stated, adding “Humanitarian movements must be made safer.”

Wennesland highlighted that despite opening entry points for humanitarian aid arriving via Ashdod and Jordan, “more aid is needed to meet the enormous scale of the needs in Gaza and there is no substitute for the full and increased operation of existing land crossings.”

He pointed out that saving lives and addressing the critical needs in Rafah and Gaza more broadly “must remain our immediate priority and I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire.”

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The UN official said: “I also reiterate that there can be no long-term solution in Gaza that is not fundamentally political.”

‘A Catastrophe, A Nightmare’

Echoing Wennesland, the director of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Operations and Advocacy Division,  Edem Wosornu, said “To be frank, we are running out of words to describe what is happening in Gaza.”

She added: “We have described it as a catastrophe, a nightmare, as hell on earth. It is all of these, and worse.”

The Anadolu news agency reports that she drew attention to the massive displacement crisis, saying: “Since October 2023, 75% of the population in Gaza – or 1.7 million people – has been forcibly displaced within Gaza, many of them up to four or five times.”


She called for the need to guarantee the right of forcibly displaced Gazans to return voluntarily.

“The Rafah ground incursion is magnifying impediments to an already fragile and beleaguered aid operation,” Wosornu said.

Though she welcomed the floating pier off Gaza’s coast set up by the US, Wosornu emphasized that “land routes remain the most viable and effective way to deliver the scale of aid needed.”

She also called for a ceasefire and halt to the ground incursion in Rafah “that will fully protect civilians, create the conditions for humanitarians to assist at the required scale, and stem the endlessly deepening toll of this travesty in Gaza.”

Over 35,000 Killed

Currently on trial before the International Court of Justice for genocide against Palestinians, Israel has been waging a devastating war on Gaza since October 7.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 35,647 Palestinians have been killed, and 79,852 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Moreover, at least 11,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip.

Palestinian and international organizations say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

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The Israeli war has resulted in an acute famine, mostly in northern Gaza, resulting in the death of many Palestinians, mostly children.

The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all over the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

Israel says that 1,200 soldiers and civilians were killed during the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7. Israeli media published reports suggesting that many Israelis were killed on that day by ‘friendly fire’.

(PC, Anadolu)

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