People's Stories Freedom

The war in Gaza must end
by OCHA, Save the Chidren, UNICEF, agencies
31 May 2024 (UN News)
Far too little aid is reaching people in Gaza to the extent that children are now starving, UN humanitarians said on Friday, in a renewed appeal to Israel to respect international law regarding the safe passage of lifesaving relief in the war-shattered enclave.
The alert from the World Health Organization (WHO) follows the finding that more than four in five children “did not eat for a whole day at least once in the three days” ahead of a food insecurity survey.
“These are children under five who are not getting food all day,” said WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris. “So, you ask, ‘Are the supplies getting through?’ No, children are starving.”
Echoing those concerns, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) highlighted the risk of deadly malnutrition and famine among Gaza’s most vulnerable individuals.
“I would say they are certainly not getting the amount that they desperately need to prevent a famine, to prevent all kind of horrors that we see. It’s very, very little that is going around at the moment,” said OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke.
Responding to questions about aid access obstacles, he reiterated that the Israeli authorities’ obligations under international humanitarian law to facilitate the delivery of aid “does not stop at the border."
"It does not stop when you drop off just a few metres across the border and then drive away and then leave it to humanitarians to drive through active combat zones - which they cannot do - to pick it up. So, to answer your question, no, the aid that is getting in, is not getting to the people.”
Amid ongoing reports of deadly Israeli bombardment across Gaza on Friday, humanitarians continued to stress that land crossings for aid convoys remain “the only way to get aid in at scale and at speed… We need more of these land crossings and we need them open and we need them safe for use to pick up the aid when it’s dropped off,” the OCHA spokesperson said.
Matthew Hollingsworth, WFP Country Director in Palestine, recently spent 10 days in Gaza. He said the “exodus” of over 800,000 people from Rafah over the past 20 days “has been a horrific experience for many, many people." Most have been displaced several times over and had thought they would be staying in a safe area for the remainder of the war.
They have fled to areas where clean water, medical supplies and support are completely insufficient, food supply is very limited, and telecommunications have stopped.
“Public health concerns are beyond crisis levels” and “the sounds, the smells, the everyday life, are horrific and apocalyptic”, he said. “People sleep to the sounds of bombing, they sleep to the sounds of drones, they sleep to the sounds of war as now tanks roll into parts of central Rafah, which is only kilometres away. And they wake to the same sounds."
27 May 2024
NGOs demand UN Security Council enforce ICJ orders on Israel’s actions in Rafah. (Norwegian Refugee Council, agencies)
The undersigned NGOs urgently call on all permanent and elected members of the UN Security Council to enforce the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) orders regarding Israel's actions in Rafah, Gaza. Immediate action is required to uphold international law and ensure the Government of Israel meets its obligations as mandated by the ICJ.
The ICJ has determined that Israel's military operations in Rafah have created a catastrophic humanitarian situation, in line with the repeated predictions and warnings of the humanitarian community in the build up to the offensive. The Court has ordered an immediate halt to military operations in Rafah, the opening of the Rafah border crossing for unhindered humanitarian relief, and access for UN fact finding bodies to investigate potential violations of the Genocide Convention.
Since the hostilities began, Gaza has faced unprecedented destruction and suffering: Over 35,800 Palestinians have been killed and 80,200 injured since 7 October 2023, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. More than 800,000 people have been displaced from Rafah since 6 May 2024, with thousands living among rubble without essential services. Food distributions in Rafah have been suspended due to severe supply shortages and insecurity, worsening the humanitarian crisis.
Despite the ICJ’s order for Israel to halt military operations, the bloodshed has continued, with recent attacks on a displacement camp near UN aid facilities in Rafah reportedly killing dozens of people, including children, and injuring many more.
Failure to comply with these orders may prompt South Africa to address the issue to the Security Council, which has the authority under the UN Charter to enforce the ICJ's binding decision.
We call on the UN Security Council to take decisive action to ensure the ICJ's orders are implemented, allowing humanitarian aid to reach those in need and enabling thorough investigations into violations of international law. The Security Council must act now to uphold justice, protect human rights, and maintain international peace and security.
Failure to do so would further compromise the conditions to sustain human life in Gaza and would undermine global trust in the primacy of international law.
24 May 2024
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued new provisional measures that order Israel to immediately end military operations in Rafah in southern Gaza and to open the governate’s border crossing for urgent aid deliveries.
This follows a request from South Africa in a pending case accusing Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention.
Reading the new provisional measures in an open session at the court in The Hague, ICJ Justice Nawaf Salam announced that Israel must abide by its obligations under the Genocide Convention to “immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governate which may inflict upon the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that would bring about its physical destruction in whole and in part”.
The court issued that decision by 13 votes in favour to two against. he new provisional measures came in response to South Africa’s request made on 10 May related to its initial accusations in December that Israel is violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention during the war in Gaza, which broke out after Hamas-led attacks on Israel in October that killed more than 1,200 people and left another 250 taken hostage.
Israel’s military response has, to date, killed 36,000 Palestinians, injured over 80,000 people , the majority womena nd children, caused widespread destruction and a looming famine in the besieged and bombarded enclave.
Court orders opening of Rafah border crossing
Given the worsening conditions on the ground since Israel’s incursion into Rafah on 7 May, the court decided, the new provisional measures shall require Israel to open the Rafah crossing for the unhindered delivery of urgent humanitarian aid and ensure unimpeded access for fact-finding missions to investigate allegations of genocide. The Rafah border crossing, which has been the main entry point for aid to the enclave, has been closed since 7 May.
“The court is not convinced that evacuation efforts and related measures that Israel has affirmed to have undertaken to enhance the security of civilians in the Gaza Strip, and in particular those recently displaced from the Rafah governate, are sufficient to alleviate immense risks to which the Palestinian population is exposed as a result of the military offensive in Rafah,” Mr. Salam said. In addition, the ICJ ordered Israel to submit a report within one month on steps taken to implement these provisional measures.
Mr. Salam said the ICJ had noted that the situation in Gaza has deteriorated since it last issued provisional measures in March, adding that since Israel’s incursion into Rafah, the Najjar Hospital was no longer functioning and aid efforts have been impacted. The court also noted that Israel’s evacuation orders for Rafah residents had led more than 800,000 people to flee to places like the coastal area of Al Mawasi, which lacked the basic essentials and services to accommodate them.
The ICJ had already issued provisional measures in January and March by which Israel must, among other things, take all steps to ensure sufficient humanitarian aid enters Gaza. However, UN agencies are reporting that scant aid is currently entering Gaza.
Court reiterates call to release hostages
Mr. Salam recalled that in the two previous orders for provisional measures “the court expressed its grave concern over the fate of the hostages abducted during the attack in Israel on 7 October 2023 and held since then by Hamas and other armed groups, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.” He said “the court finds it deeply troubling that many of these hostages remain in captivity and reiterates its call for their immediate and unconditional release.”
20 May 2024
Israel/Palestine: ICC Prosecutor requests Arrest Warrants. (UN News, International Criminal Court)
Arrest warrants are being sought for the leaders of Hamas and Israel for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to the war in Gaza, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Monday.
In a statement, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Hamas’s Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri (Deif) and Ismail Haniyeh “bear criminal responsibility” for murder, extermination and taking hostages – among numerous other crimes – since the Gaza conflict erupted in the wake of Hamas-led attacks in southern Israel on 7 October.
There are also reasonable grounds to believe that Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, Israeli Minister of Defence, are responsible for other crimes and crimes against humanity “committed on the territory of the State of Palestine”.
These include “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare as a war crime… intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population [and] extermination and/or murder”.
Although the ICC is not a UN organisation, it has an agreement of cooperation with the United Nations. And when a situation is not within the court's jurisdiction, the UN Security Council can refer the situation to the ICC, granting it jurisdiction.
To complement the allegations, Prosecutor Khan, a British national, noted that his Office had interviewed victims and survivors of the 7 October Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel.
This included former hostages and eyewitnesses “from six major attack locations: Kfar Aza, Holit, the venue of the Supernova Music Festival, Be’eri; Nir Oz and Nahal Oz”.
“It is the view of my Office that these individuals planned and instigated the commission of crimes on 7 October 2023 and have through their own actions, including personal visits to hostages shortly after their kidnapping, acknowledged their responsibility for those crimes,” Prosecutor Khan said.
“Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. These acts demand accountability,” he added.
Turning to the hostages still believed to be held in Gaza, the ICC official noted that his Office had interviewed victims and survivors and that this information along with other sources indicated that they had been kept in inhumane conditions with some subjected to sexual violence, including rape.
“I wish to express my gratitude to the survivors and the families of victims of the 7 October attacks for their courage in coming forward to provide their accounts to my Office,” Prosecutor Khan said. “We remain focused on further deepening our investigations of all crimes committed as part of these attacks and will continue to work with all partners to ensure that justice is delivered.”
On the issue of the liability of the top Israeli officials Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gallant, the ICC Prosecutor alleged “starvation as a method of war”.
This and other crimes against humanity were allegedly committed “as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy”.
To reinforce the allegations, Mr. Khan cited “interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, authenticated video, photo and audio material, satellite imagery and statements” which showed “that Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival”.
Detailing the impact of “total siege” imposed by Israel on Gaza after 8 October 2023, the ICC request to judges explained that this involved “completely closing” the three border crossing points – Rafah, Kerem Shalom in the south and Erez in the north – “for extended periods and then by arbitrarily restricting the transfer of essential supplies – including food and medicine – through the border crossings after they were re-opened”.
Among other deprivations, the Israeli siege also cut off water and electricity pipelines to Gaza, the ICC Prosecutor continued, noting that Gazans also faced physical attacks when queuing for food while other “attacks on and killing of aid workers… forced many agencies to cease or limit their operations”.
The effects of this State policy were “acute, visible and widely known”, Mr. Khan said, noting the UN Secretary-General’s warning some two months ago that “1.1 million people in Gaza are facing catastrophic hunger – the highest number of people ever recorded anywhere, anytime” as a result of an “entirely man-made disaster”.
Although Israel has the right to defend itself under international law, Mr. Khan insisted that “intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering” to civilians were clear breaches of the ICC’s foundational charter, signed in Rome in 2002. Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute while Palestine is.
“I have consistently emphasised that international humanitarian law demands that Israel take urgent action to immediately allow access to humanitarian aid in Gaza at scale. I specifically underlined that starvation as a method of war and the denial of humanitarian relief constitute Rome Statute offences.”
No one is above the law
In addition to the request to judges to issue warrants, the ICC statement noted that it was pursuing “multiple and interconnected additional lines of inquiry” into crimes committed since 7 October.
These include further allegations of sexual violence during the Hamas-led terror attacks and widespread bombardment in Gaza "that has caused and continues to cause so many civilian deaths, injuries and suffering”.
"Today, we once again underline that international law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all. No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity," Mr. Khan said, while also highlighting his concern over escalating violence in the West Bank.
"Nothing can justify wilfully depriving human beings, including so many women and children, the basic necessities required for life. Nothing can justify the taking of hostages or the targeting of civilians."
In a call to all parties in the Gaza conflict “to comply with the law now”, the ICC Prosecutor said his Office “will not hesitate to submit further applications for warrants of arrest if and when we consider that the threshold of a realistic prospect of conviction has been met”.
12 May 24
The war in Gaza has become a moral stain on the conscience of our collective humanity, by Joyce Msuya, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator:
Despite repeated appeals, Israel moved ahead with its military offensive in Rafah and seized control of the Gaza side of the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings earlier this week.
These crossings are a lifeline for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in need.
This spells further catastrophe for more than a million people who have been forcibly displaced to Rafah to escape fighting, disease and hunger elsewhere.
Seven months of fighting have turned Gaza into a hellscape for millions trapped under incessant bombardment.
The war has killed over 35,000 people; 80,000 more are wounded or missing, with many more trapped under the rubble. For months, women and children have been killed at a rate that exceeds any war in this century.
And those who’ve escaped death and injury now risk losing their lives because of a lack of food, safe water, medicine and healthcare.
Every day, scores of women give birth in horrifying conditions, often without anesthesia or medical aid, as bombs explode around them. Mothers watch their babies die in their arms because they don’t have enough milk to keep them alive. And children are dying because they don’t have enough food or water.
What aid makes it into Gaza is being delivered by humanitarian workers who are forced to navigate checkpoints, unexploded bombs and intense fighting – at tremendous risk to their own lives.
This war – which has caused such pain, suffering and grief – must end so that the Palestinian people can begin to confront the trauma inflicted on them. I echo the Secretary-General’s longstanding call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, and the immediate and unconditional release of hostages.
To reach people in need, we need multiple, reliable entry points for aid. We need law and order. And humanitarian workers must be protected, and not attacked. Until we have safe routes, the flow of aid simply will not match the enormous scale of the catastrophe.
We need Israeli authorities to abide by their obligations to facilitate safe, rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid and humanitarian workers. This includes for UNRWA, which has been the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza for decades and is best positioned to respond to the dire needs of the Palestinian people.
28 Mar. 2024
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued new provisional measures for Israel as the humanitarian situation in besieged Gaza continues to deteriorate. (UN News)
The ICJ provisional measures state that Israel, “in view of the worsening conditions of life faced by Palestinians in Gaza, in particular the spread of famine and starvation”, shall take “all necessary and effective measures to ensure, without delay, in full cooperation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians throughout Gaza”.
The measures outline that the required aid includes food, water, electricity, fuel, shelter, clothing, hygiene and sanitation requirements, as well as medical supplies and medical care.
The fresh ICJ order also calls on Israel, as a signatory to the Genocide Convention, to undertake those measures, “including by increasing the capacity and number of land crossing points and maintaining them open for as long as necessary”.
UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric reminded journalists at the daily news briefing that the ICJ operates independently. “We do believe as a matter of principle that all Member States abide by decisions of the court,” he said.
The ICJ was established by the UN Charter as the principal judicial organ of the UN.
Mar. 2024
Children in Gaza need life-saving support. (UNICEF)
The escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip is having a catastrophic impact on children and families. Children are dying at an alarming rate – thousands have been killed and thousands more injured. Around 1.7 million people in the Gaza Strip are estimated to have been internally displaced – half of them children. They do not have enough access to water, food, fuel and medicine. Their homes have been destroyed; their families torn apart.
Over 600,000 children – half of the displaced population – are trapped in Rafah. There is nowhere safe for them to go.
Even wars have rules. No child should be cut off from essential services, nor fall from the reach of humanitarian hands. No child should be held hostage or used by any means in armed conflict. Hospitals and schools must be protected from bombings, and they must not be used for military purposes, in accordance with international humanitarian law. The cost to children and their communities of this violence will be borne out for generations to come.
UNICEF continues to press world leaders on every occasion for humanitarian access to the whole of Gaza. To respond to the situation for children in Israel and the State of Palestine, UNICEF is calling for:
An immediate and long-lasting humanitarian ceasefire. Safe and unrestricted humanitarian access to and within the Gaza Strip to reach affected populations wherever they are, including in the north. All access crossings must be opened including for sufficient fuel and materials needed to run and rehabilitate essential infrastructure and commercial supplies.
Safe movement for humanitarian workers and supplies across the Gaza Strip must be guaranteed and reliable telecommunications networks made available to coordinate response efforts.
The immediate, safe and unconditional release of all abducted children, and an end to any grave violations against all children, including killing and maiming of children.
Respect and protection for civilian infrastructure such as shelters and schools, and health, electric, water, sanitation and telecommunications facilities, to prevent loss of civilian and children’s lives, outbreaks of diseases, and to provide care to the sick and wounded.
All parties to the conflict must respect international humanitarian law.
Urgent medical cases in Gaza to be able to safely access critical health services or be allowed to leave, and for injured or sick children evacuated to be accompanied by family members.
* 1.1 million people in Gaza are projected to face catastrophic levels of food insecurity between March and July 2024, up from 378,000 in December 2023, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis released on 18 March:
21 Feb. 2024
UN agencies join call for safe humanitarian access and new analysis confirms worst fears.
Hungry, thirsty and weak, more and more Gazans are falling sick, according to a report published this week.
At least 90 per cent of children aged under 5 are affected by one or more infectious diseases, with 70 percent having had diarrhoea in the past two weeks, according to analysis from the Global Nutrition Cluster.
“An immediate humanitarian ceasefire continues to provide the best chance to save lives and end suffering,” the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said in a statement.
“If the conflict doesn’t end now, children’s nutrition will continue to plummet, leading to preventable deaths or health issues which will affect the children of Gaza for the rest of their lives and have intergenerational consequences,” said UNICEF’s deputy executive director for humanitarian action and supply operations, Ted Chaiban.
High levels of disease, the severe shortage of food and clean water, and the almost total collapse of health services are compounding child wasting and making every day a struggle to survive for adults.
Nutrition screenings conducted at shelters and health centres found that 15.6 per cent of children under 2 are acutely malnourished. Valerie Guarnieri, World Food Programme Assistant Executive Director for Programme Operations, has called for “decisive improvements on security and humanitarian access, and additional entry points for aid to enter Gaza.”
“Imagine being so hungry you are willing to run into gunfire to collect food. That’s a reflection of the level of desperation people of Gaza are facing today,” said Matthew Hollingworth, World Food Programme Country Director for Palestine.
In the whole month of January, WFP only managed to get four convoys into Gaza – that’s around 35 truckloads of food, enough for almost 130,000 people. “This is really not enough to prevent a famine, and we know levels of hunger in Gaza City are already at that level or getting to that level”.
“Gaza today looks entirely different than it did four months ago,” he said. “Half the buildings across the entirety of the Strip are rubble.. There’s no, or limited, clean water. It’s a public healthcare crisis as well as a hunger crisis. We desperately need significant amounts of aid to get into Gaza every single day.”
“We need the fighting to stop,” he added. “If the warfare is over, we can get about the business of making sure that we can get sufficient assistance into all areas of the Strip.”
27 Feb. 2024
Update on Food Security Risks in Gaza by Mr. Ramesh Rajasingham, Director of OCHA Coordination Division, to UN Security Council. (OCHA)
Since the start of the current hostilities following the horrific Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7, the UN has warned about the potentially deleterious impact on food insecurity in Gaza, particularly for a population already experiencing high levels of structural poverty after 16 years of blockade.
In December, it was projected that the entire population of 2.2 million people in Gaza would face high levels of acute food insecurity by February 2024 – the highest share of people facing this level of food insecurity ever recorded worldwide.
And here we are, at the end of February, with at least 576,000 people in Gaza – one-quarter of the population – one step away from famine; with 1 in 6 children under 2 years of age in northern Gaza suffering from acute malnutrition and wasting; and practically the entire population of Gaza left to rely on woefully inadequate humanitarian food assistance to survive. Unfortunately, as grim as the picture we see today, there is every possibility for further deterioration.
Hunger and the risk of famine are exacerbated by factors that go beyond just the availability of food. Inadequate water, sanitation, and health services creates a cycle of vulnerability, where malnourished people – especially among the tens of thousands of people who are injured – become more susceptible to disease that further depletes the body’s nutritional reserves.
A steep rise in malnutrition among children and pregnant and breastfeeding women in the Gaza Strip is a particularly grave concern. And add chronic overcrowding, exposure to the cold and an absence of adequate shelter to this lack of nutrition, and you have created the conditions for massive disease epidemics.
With people in Gaza unable to rely on usual sources of food, humanitarian food assistance is now nearly the sole source of subsistence. Yet as we have reported to the Council on numerous occasions, the humanitarian community is facing overwhelming obstacles just to get a bare minimum of supplies into Gaza, let alone mounting the multisectoral response that would be required to avert a famine.
Our efforts continue to be beset by crossing closures, serious movement restrictions, access denials, onerous vetting procedures, incidents involving desperate civilians, protests and a breakdown in law and order, restrictions on communications and protective equipment, and impassable supply routes due to damaged roads and unexploded ordnance..
The White Note submitted to this Council sets out a number of recommendations for action. It includes ensuring respect for international humanitarian law; the resumption of entry of essential food, electricity, fuel and cooking gas, including by the private sector; the protection and restoration of vital infrastructure and services, including cross-border water pipelines, the lifting of restrictions on fishing activity, access to farmland and the entry of agricultural goods; urgently facilitating greater humanitarian access into and within Gaza, including opening up additional crossing points and finally concerted efforts towards ending this conflict altogether.
But without a doubt, at this stage, very little will be possible while hostilities continue and while there is a risk that they will spread into the overcrowded areas of south of Gaza. We therefore reiterate our call for a ceasefire.
If nothing is done, we fear widespread famine in Gaza is almost inevitable, and the conflict, which since October has claimed the lives of almost 30,000 people, and injured more than 70,000, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, will have many more victims. We put this before the Council as a matter of urgency.
Fears over Gaza catastrophe as brutal conflict enters sixth month. (OHCHR)
We are entering the sixth month of a brutal conflict that has destroyed the lives and homes of countless Palestinians, as well as Israelis. We fear that this already catastrophic situation may slide deeper into the abyss as many Palestinians mark the holy month of Ramadan – a period that is meant to honour peace and tolerance – should Israel launch its threatened military offensive into Rafah, where 1.5 million people have been displaced in deplorable sub-human conditions.
Any ground assault on Rafah would incur massive loss of life and would heighten the risk of further atrocity crimes. This must not be allowed to happen.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights repeats that there must be an immediate end to this conflict, and that the killing and destruction must stop.
The hostages, who have now endured over 150 days of suffering and torment, must be released unconditionally and returned to their distraught families.
Israel, as the occupying power, must – we repeat - fully comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law to provide the increasingly desperate civilian population of Gaza with the necessary food and medical supplies, or, if it is unable to do so, ensure that the population has access to critical life-saving humanitarian assistance commensurate with their needs.
Border crossings and corridors must be fully opened and steps must be taken to ensure the free and secure movement of aid convoys to civilians wherever they are located within the Gaza strip if wider starvation and needless suffering are to be averted.
Since 7 October, parties to this conflict have paid little heed to international law that protects human rights and governs the conduct of hostilities. This has been a stain on the collective conscience of humanity. The laws of war are clear and must be respected at all times and in all circumstances. Those who violate them must be held to account.
The High Commissioner reminds all States parties that under Article 1, common to the four Geneva Conventions, they have the obligation to respect and ensure respect for the rules laid down by those Conventions. This obligation includes not only taking all available steps to ensure full compliance by the parties engaged in hostilities, but also means that States must not, through their own policies or actions, facilitate the commission of violations of humanitarian law.
Feb. 2024
Children are bearing the brunt of the horrors in Gaza, by John Lyons. (ABC News)
The most dangerous place in the world to be a child. That devastating description is now being applied to Gaza by UNICEF as the true extent of the catastrophe of this war emerges.
That devastation is leading to one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time – where, for example, a nurse has had to perform emergency caesarean operations on six dead pregnant women to try to save their babies.
The horrors of Gaza are almost unspeakable. As difficult as all this is to read and to watch, it's important the world does not look away.
Rarely, if ever, have so many children been killed, injured or orphaned as quickly as in Gaza right now.
"The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child," says UNICEF's James Elder. "And day after day, that brutal reality is reinforced."
UNICEF has compiled a range of statistics from Gaza. It says that a Palestinian child is killed every 15 minutes. Thousands more are missing under rubble. One of every 10 children killed in Gaza did not make their first birthday. More than 1,000 children have lost one or both legs.
Save the Children estimates that more than 10 children a day are losing one or both legs — those having limbs amputated are having it done without anaesthetic.
According to UNICEF, there are now at least 19,000 orphans in Gaza and thousands who have lost one parent.
According to Gaza's Ministry of Health, at least 28,000 Palestinians have been killed — including 11,500 children.
Gaza has more children than almost anywhere else — 47.3 per cent of its population is under 18. The Health Ministry says there are at least 65,636 injured people in Gaza – of which 18,000 are children.
Israel's newspaper Haaretz ran the headline: "11,500 Children Have Been Killed in Gaza. Horror of This Scale Has No Explanation."
Entire neighbourhoods in Gaza have been destroyed. The City University of New York and Oregon State University have examined satellite images that show up to 175,000 of buildings have been destroyed or damaged. That's 61 per cent of all buildings.
The UN estimates that 80 per cent of the population — 1.75 million people — are now without anywhere to live.
Nobody can dispute Israel's right to respond to the October 7 atrocities. Any country would have responded had 1,200 people been tortured and murdered and 240 kidnapped.
But it's the dramatic lack of proportionality of the response that Israel will be asked to answer for in years to come.
News agencies report that between October 7 and December 15 Israel dropped 29,000 bombs on Gaza. Many of those 29,000 were 2,000-pound bombs – which can blow out windows as far as a kilometre way. That means, on average, 79 bombs per square kilometre.
When Vladimir Putin has dropped bombs as large as these on civilians in Ukraine the world branded this war crimes.
Israel insists it has tried to protect civilians by dropping leaflets from jets or sending text messages. But if Israel has tried to avoid civilian deaths then it has seriously failed.
UNICEF'S James Elder said there was now one toilet for every 700 people. In some places, people are defecating in the open.
"Diarrhoea cases in children are above 100,000. Acute respiratory illness cases in civilians are above 150,000. Both numbers will be gross under-counts of the woeful reality," said Elder.
"The Gaza strip has the worst level of malnutrition in the world. With malnutrition soaring among Gaza's children, diarrhoeal diseases are becoming deadly." Aid workers say that 135,000 children under two are now at risk of severe malnutrition. UNICEF says that 1.1 million children are unable to access humanitarian aid.
12 Jan. 2024
Statement by Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator: The war in Gaza must end.
Three months since the horrific 7 October attacks in Israel, Gaza has become a place of death and despair.
Tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children, have been killed or injured. Families are sleeping in the open as temperatures plummet. Areas where civilians were told to relocate for their safety have come under bombardment. Medical facilities are under relentless attack. The few hospitals that are partially functional are overwhelmed with trauma cases, critically short of all supplies, and inundated by desperate people seeking safety.
A public health disaster is unfolding. Infectious diseases are spreading in overcrowded shelters as sewers spill over. Some 180 Palestinian women are giving birth daily amidst this chaos. People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded. Famine is around the corner.
For children in particular, the past 12 weeks have been traumatic: No food. No water. No school. Nothing but the terrifying sounds of war, day in and day out.
Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence – while the world watches on.
The humanitarian community has been left with the impossible mission of supporting more than 2 million people, even as its own staff are being killed and displaced, as communication blackouts continue, as roads are damaged and convoys are shot at, and as commercial supplies vital to survival are almost non-existent.
Meanwhile, rocket attacks on Israel continue, more than 120 people are still held hostage in Gaza, tensions in the West Bank are boiling, and the specter of further regional spillover of the war is looming dangerously close.
Hope has never been more elusive. Gaza has shown us the worst of humanity, as well as moments of great heroism. We have seen how violence cannot resolve differences, but only inflame passions and build new generations of danger and insecurity.
We continue to demand an immediate end to the war, not just for the people of Gaza and its threatened neighbors, but for the generations to come who will never forget these 90 days of hell and of assaults on the most basic precepts of humanity.
It is time for the parties to meet all their obligations under international law, including to protect civilians and meet their essential needs, and to release all hostages immediately.
It is time for the international community to use all its influence to make this happen. This war should never have started. But it’s long past time for it to end.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: “Let me begin by expressing my utter condemnation of the abhorrent attacks by Hamas and others against Israeli towns and villages in Southern Israel, which have left over 1,200 Israelis dead and more than 3,000 injured” he said.
Mr. Guterres said that over 200 Israelis - civilians, including women, children and the elderly - have been captured by armed groups and are being held hostage inside the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad group have launched thousands of indiscriminate rockets that have reached central Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
“Nothing can justify these acts of terror and the killing, maiming and abduction of civilians,” he said. “I reiterate my call to immediately cease these attacks and release all hostages.”
In the face of these unprecedented attacks, Israel has commenced military operations in Gaza.
“While I recognize Israel’s legitimate security concerns, I also remind Israel that military operations must be conducted in strict accordance with international humanitarian law.”
9 Oct. 2023
Horrific scenes of violence has left 1,200 people dead and over 2,000 people wounded in Israeli towns and villages near the Gaza Strip, amid rocket and armed attacks by armed Palestinian militants on October 7th.
At dawn, a Hamas-led operation launched thousands of rockets towards Israel from the Gaza Strip, and armed Hamas fighters entered Southern Israel and attacked a number of Israeli towns and settlements murdering hundreds of women and children, the elderly and unarmed civilians. Families were burned alive in their homes, shot while trying to flee, massacred en masse in brutal acts defined as war crimes under the Geneva Conventions. Hundreds of young people were murdered while attending a dance party in horrific scenes of brutality.
In response, Israeli authorities declared that the country is in a state of war and have launched a military operation with strikes on the Gaza strip by air, land and sea.
Tor Wennesland, the UN's Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process:
“I vehemently condemn this morning’s multi-front assault against Israeli towns and cities and the barrage of rockets reaching across central Israel by Hamas militants.. These events have resulted in horrific scenes of violence and many Israeli fatalities and injuries, with many believed to be kidnapped inside the Strip,” he said. “These are heinous attacks targeting civilians.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk: “Civilians must never be the target of attack.. I am shocked and appalled that many Israelis have been killed and hundreds injured.”
Noting that Israeli forces have responded with airstrikes into the densely populated Gaza Strip, he called on them to “take all precautions to avoid civilian casualties there”.
Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East: “The images and reports we have seen this morning from Israel are utterly horrific. The violence directed against civilians is appalling and cannot be justified. If the situation continues to escalate, then civilians on both sides will suffer immensely.
“We are aware of reports relating to people being captured or detained. I want to make it clear that carrying out, or threatening to carry out, an act of hostage-taking is prohibited under international humanitarian law. Anyone detained must be treated humanely and with dignity.
“All parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. This is non-negotiable. Civilians and civilian objects must be respected and protected".

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Over 300 million full-time jobs to be lost for artificial intelligence business profits by 2030
by The Elders, MIT, Future of Life, agencies
29 May 2024
The lack of progress on AI safety and call for global governance of this existential risk. (The Elders)
Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland:
"I remain deeply concerned at the lack of progress on the global governance of artificial intelligence. Decision-making on AI’s rapid development sits disproportionately within private companies without significant checks and balances.
AI risks and safety issues cannot be left to voluntary agreements between corporations and a small number of nations. Governance of this technology needs to be inclusive with binding, globally agreed regulations.
The recent AI Seoul Summit saw some collaboration, but the commitments made remain voluntary. There have been some other developments, notably with the EU AI Act and the California bill SB-1047, but capacity and expertise within governments and international organisations is struggling to keep up with AI’s advancements.
Ungoverned AI poses an existential risk to humanity and has the potential to exacerbate other global challenges – from nuclear risks and the use of autonomous weapons, to disinformation and the erosion of democracy.
Effective regulation of this technology at the multilateral level can help AI be a force for good, not a runaway risk. Along with my fellow Elders, I reaffirm our call for an international AI safety body".
OpenAI and Google DeepMind workers warn of AI industry risks in open letter
A group of current and former employees at prominent artificial intelligence companies have issued an open letter that warns of a lack of safety oversight within the industry and called for increased protections for whistleblowers.
The letter, which calls for a “right to warn about artificial intelligence”, is one of the most public statements about the dangers of AI from employees within what is generally a secretive industry. Eleven current and former OpenAI workers signed the letter, along with two current or former Google DeepMind employees.
“AI companies possess substantial non-public information about the capabilities and limitations of their systems, the adequacy of their protective measures, and the risk levels of different kinds of harm,” the letter states. “However, they currently have only weak obligations to share some of this information with governments, and none with civil society. We do not think they can all be relied upon to share it voluntarily.”
May 2024
Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are getting better at deceiving us. (MIT)
As AI systems have grown in sophistication so has their capacity for deception, scientists warn. The analysis, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers identified wide-ranging instances of AI systems double-crossing opponents in games, bluffing and pretending to be human. One system altered its behaviour during mock safety tests, raising the prospect of auditors being lured into a false sense of security.
“As the deceptive capabilities of AI systems become more advanced, the dangers they pose to society will become increasingly serious,” said Dr Peter Park, an AI existential safety researcher at MIT and author of the research.
Park was prompted to investigate after Meta, which owns Facebook, developed a program called Cicero that performed in the top 10% of human players at the world conquest strategy game Diplomacy. Meta stated that Cicero had been trained to be “largely honest and helpful” and to “never intentionally backstab” its human allies.
“It was very rosy language, which was suspicious because backstabbing is one of the most important concepts in the game,” said Park.
Park and colleagues sifted through publicly available data and identified multiple instances of Cicero telling premeditated lies, colluding to draw other players into plots and, on one occasion, justifying its absence after being rebooted by telling another player: “I am on the phone with my girlfriend.” “We found that Meta’s AI had learned to be a master of deception,” said Park.
The MIT team found comparable issues with other systems, including a Texas hold ’em poker program that could bluff against professional human players and another system for economic negotiations that misrepresented its preferences in order to gain an upper hand.
In one study, AI organisms in a digital simulator “played dead” in order to trick a test built to eliminate AI systems that had evolved to rapidly replicate, before resuming vigorous activity once testing was complete. This highlights the technical challenge of ensuring that systems do not have unintended and unanticipated behaviours.
“That’s very concerning,” said Park. “Just because an AI system is deemed safe in the test environment doesn’t mean it’s safe in the wild. It could just be pretending to be safe in the test.”
The review, published in the journal Patterns, calls on governments to design AI safety laws that address the potential for AI deception. Risks from dishonest AI systems include fraud, tampering with elections and “sandbagging” where different users are given different responses. Eventually, if these systems can refine their unsettling capacity for deception, humans could lose control of them, the paper suggests.
Patterns: Loss of control over AI systems
"A long-term risk from AI deception concerns humans losing control over AI systems, leaving these systems to pursue goals that conflict with our interests. Even current AI models have nontrivial autonomous capabilities.. Today’s AI systems are capable of manifesting and autonomously pursuing goals entirely unintended by their creators.
For a real-world example of an autonomous AI pursuing goals entirely unintended by their prompters, tax lawyer Dan Neidle describes how he tasked AutoGPT (an autonomous AI agent based on GPT-4) with researching tax advisors who were marketing a certain kind of improper tax avoidance scheme. AutoGPT carried this task out, but followed up by deciding on its own to attempt to alert HM Revenue and Customs, the United Kingdom’s tax authority. It is possible that the more advanced autonomous AIs may still be prone to manifesting goals entirely unintended by humans.
A particularly concerning example of such a goal is the pursuit of human disempowerment or human extinction. We explain how deception could contribute to loss of control over AI systems in two ways: first, deception of AI developers and evaluators could allow a malicious AI system to be deployed in the world; second, deception could facilitate an AI takeover".
Mar. 2024
Over 300 million full-time jobs around the world to be lost to artificial intelligence by 2030 further heightening inequalities.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will impact 40% of jobs around the world according to a report by the International Monetary Fund. AI, the term for computer systems that can perform tasks usually associated with human levels of intelligence, is poised to profoundly change the global economy. AI will have the ability to perform key tasks that are currently executed by humans. This will lower demand for labour, heighten job losses, lower wages and permanently eradicate jobs.
IMF's managing director Kristalina Georgieva said "in most scenarios, AI will worsen overall inequality". “Countries’ choices regarding the definition of AI property rights, as well as redistributive and other fiscal policies, will ultimately shape its impact on income and wealth distribution”.
The IMF analysis reports 60% of jobs in advanced economies such as the US and UK are exposed to AI and half of these jobs will be negatively affected. AI jobs exposure is 40% in emerging market economies and 26% for low-income countries, according to the IMF. The report echoes earlier reports estimating AI would replace over 300 million full-time jobs.
In the United States and Europe, approximately two-thirds of current jobs “are exposed to some degree of AI automation,” and up to a quarter of all work could be done by AI completely, according to a report by Goldman Sachs economists. The report predicts that 18% of work globally could be computerized, with the effects felt more deeply in advanced economies.
Companies are hoping to generate higher profits through automation by downsizing their workforce. For the 300 million newly unemployed workers, many whose incomes provide support for their families, the impacts will be devastating. Corporations are lobbying governments to spin their narratives for their own profit. Citizens should challenge corporate monied interests and financial elites capture of Government policies and regulatory frameworks, and resist Government from delivering public sector services via mecha chatbots, outsourced commercial automation and the like.


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