Palestinians mourn the death of loved ones following Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip on December 5, 2023, as several bodies lie outside a hospital in Khan Yunis, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

International news

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, has issued a strong condemnation of the ongoing crisis in Gaza, describing the situation as one of the worst assaults on a civilian population in recent times. Egeland's statement sheds light on the dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region, marked by escalating civilian casualties, including many children.

The crisis has led to the displacement of nearly the entire population of the Gaza Strip, totaling 1.9 million people.

Approximately two-thirds of homes in the area have been damaged or destroyed, forcing thousands of families to seek refuge in overcrowded shelters or on the streets. Egeland highlighted the plight of over 750,000 people who are now crammed into just 133 shelters, with tens of thousands more living on the streets under bombardment, facing the onset of winter rains and the spread of infectious diseases.

Egeland's statement also draws attention to the plight of humanitarian workers in the region, including his own staff members at the Norwegian Refugee Council. One staff member, he noted, is living on the streets with her two-month-old baby. The relentless attacks have severely hampered aid operations, leading to starvation and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

The Secretary General criticized the international community for its inaction, despite widespread awareness of the atrocities. He called out countries supporting Israel with arms, stating that their complicity in the civilian deaths will be a lasting stain on their reputations. Egeland demanded an immediate ceasefire and stressed the need for accountability for those responsible for the killings, torture, and atrocities committed, both in Israel and in Gaza.

He emphasized that the military campaign cannot be justified as self-defense and constitutes a violation of international law. Egeland reiterated the demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, asserting that the lives of innocent civilians and the ability of aid workers to provide assistance should not be used as leverage in the conflict.

In his closing remarks, Egeland described the situation in Gaza as a "total failure of our shared humanity" and called for an immediate end to the killing, underlining the urgency of addressing this humanitarian crisis.