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Rafah a ‘pressure cooker of despair’: UN on worsening conditions in southern Gaza


GENEVA: The UN voiced fears Friday about worsening conditions in southern Gaza, saying a surge in people seeking safety in Rafah had made the town a “pressure cooker of despair”.
The United Nations’ humanitarian agency OCHA said it was deeply concerned about the escalation of hostilities in Khan Yunis, which had resulted in increased numbers heading further south to Rafah in recent days.
“Most are living in makeshift structures, tents or out in the open,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told a briefing in Geneva.
“Rafah is a pressure cooker of despair, and we fear for what comes next.
“Khan Yunis has also come increasingly under attack, and it’s been shocking to hear about the heavy fighting in the vicinity of the hospitals, jeopardising the safety of medical staff, the wounded and the sick, as well as thousands of internally displaced people seeking refuge there.”
Laerke said that OCHA’s food and security partners were reporting that half of the total food assistance provided in the last week of January was distributed in Rafah, reflecting the very high concentration of people.
Of the people rushing southwards, he said: “Are they truly safe? No. There’s no safe place in Gaza; also not in Rafah.
“Every week we think it can’t get any worse. Well, go figure: it gets worse.”
The war in Gaza was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Militants also seized about 250 hostages, and Israel says 132 remain in Gaza, including at least 27 believed to have been killed.
After the attack, Israel launched a relentless military offensive that has killed at least 27,131 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.
The UN’s top court last Friday said Israel must facilitate “urgently needed” humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Laerke said that over recent weeks, “I do not detect any improvement whatsover in the humanitarian situation, anywhere in the Gaza Strip”.

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