'Unfathomable catastrophe': WHO warns against Israeli assault on Rafah

'Unfathomable catastrophe': WHO warns against Israeli assault on Rafah
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14 February 2024
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The World Health Organization has warned that an Israeli military offensive against Rafah in southern Gaza would cause an "unfathomable catastrophe" and push the enclave's health system closer to the brink of collapse.

"Military activities in this area, this densely populated area, would be, of course, an unfathomable catastrophe... and would even further expand the humanitarian disaster beyond imagination," WHO representative for Gaza and the occupied West Bank Richard Peeperkorn said on Wednesday,

"It will also increase the burden on a completely overburdened ... health system on its knees and increase the trauma burden and it would push the health system closer to the brink of collapse," Peeperkorn said.

WHO's ability to distribute medical aid to Gaza was limited because many of its requests to deliver supplies had been denied, Peeperkorn added.

He said that only 40 percent of WHO's missions to northern Gaza had been authorised from November, and that this figure had dropped significantly since January.

"All of these missions have been denied, impeded, or postponed," he said, adding it was "absurd" that only 45 percent of WHO's mission requests for southern Gaza had been granted.

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'A slaughter'

Israel has previously denied blocking the entry of aid.

"Even when there is no ceasefire, humanitarian corridors should exist so that WHO, the UN can do their job," Peeperkorn said.

More than one million Palestinians crammed into Rafah at the southern tip of Gaza, on the border with Egypt, where many are living in tent camps and makeshift shelters after fleeing Israeli bombardments elsewhere in Gaza.

The United Nations said that an Israeli offensive there could "lead to a slaughter."

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85 percent of the territory's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 percent of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

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