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No place to call home: Over 100,000 Palestinians become refugees

July 22, 2014 13:35 IST

No place to call home: Over 100,000 Palestinians become refugees

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The United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees has said that over 100,000 internally displaced people are seeking safety in its facilities amid deteriorating security conditions in the Gaza Strip as it appealed for $60 million (Rs 361 crore) for urgent humanitarian needs.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said the number of people seeking refuge with the agency, which has opened nearly 70 shelters, has exceeded 100,000.

It issued the emergency appeal for funds to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including tens of thousands who have fled their homes in the wake of the Israeli military offensive that has killed more than 550 Palestinians and wounded over 3,500.

“This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict. We are seeing a huge wave of accelerated displacement because of the Israeli ground offensive,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said.

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Image: A Palestinian man carrying children flees the Shujayeh neighbourhood in a vehicle during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza.
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

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As the number of casualties and injured civilians rises in the Gaza Strip, aid agencies have geared up for the emergency response and mobilised relief supplies from the International Humanitarian City in Dubai. The supplies have been donated to UNRWA for thousands of vulnerable displaced families in Gaza.

A special airlift in support of displaced families in Gaza began on Sunday from Dubai, where a 747 cargo took off carrying 115 metric ton of aid, containing 45,000 mattresses, 10,000 blankets and 220 hygiene kits.

“We are very grateful for the immediate reaction and most generous response we received from Dubai and all the IHC members to our call for help,” UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl said.

In the coming days, more airlifts are scheduled to arrive in Amman, from where UNRWA will truck the aid into Gaza for distribution. UNRWA plans to expand the scope of the donations to include emergency food parcels as stocks of food and other essential goods dwindle.

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Image: Palestinian children, who fled their family house that is adjacent to the border with Israel, sleep as they stay at a United Nations-run school in Gaza city.
Photographs: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

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No place to call home: Over 100,000 Palestinians become refugees

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The agency said the main priority for humanitarian agencies continues to be the provision of food, water, mattresses and hygiene items, as well as fuel for essential water, health and sewage facilities.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged all parties to rally around collective international efforts to obtain an end to bloodshed in Gaza and Israel and reach a ceasefire, as he continued his visit to the region with a stop in Cairo.

“Palestinians and Israelis deserve freedom -- freedom from siege, rockets, missiles, artillery and airstrikes. They deserve a future of hope, peace and justice,” Ban said.

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Image: A Palestinian woman carries belongings as she flees her house, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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No place to call home: Over 100,000 Palestinians become refugees

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Meanwhile, the US has said that Israel must take greater steps to meet its own standards for protecting civilians from being killed in the ongoing military operation. “The President is concerned about the violence that we’ve seen experienced by civilians on both sides of the border. There are reports of Israeli casualties and many more reports of Palestinian casualties. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been killed. Our condolences are with the Palestinian people and the Israeli people for the losses that they have suffered,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

“What is unacceptable, though, is for Hamas to continue firing rockets aimed squarely at Israeli civilians. That is not a situation that any country could tolerate, and it is why the Israeli political leadership has the right to use their military might to defend their people,” he said.

Earnest said Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and they have taken steps to do exactly that. “We’ve seen their population subjected to repeated volleys of rocket fire. What distinguishes the Hamas actions from the Israeli actions is that Hamas is squarely targeting their rocket fire at innocent Israeli civilians. The Israeli military, on the other hand, does have standards for trying to protect the life of innocent civilians, even innocent Palestinian civilians,” he added.


Image: Palestinians sit in the bucket of an excavator as families flee the Shujayeh neighbourhood during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza city.
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

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