BY ALEX BALUKU
Baluku is a distinguished Fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists, currently reporting from the United States of America on the 78th UN General Assembly. With a keen eye for global affairs and a commitment to delivering insightful coverage of UN activities, Baluku brings a unique perspective to the world of international journalism.
As the sun rose over Israel, the world witnessed a harrowing escalation of violence, leaving dozens dead and hundreds wounded in Israeli cities near the Gaza Strip. The international community has responded with condemnation and calls for restraint in the face of this deadly conflict.
At the heart of this crisis is an early morning operation led by Hamas, during which thousands of rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. The United Nations relief agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, reported these distressing events in their latest situation report, painting a grim picture of the unfolding tragedy.
In response to the rocket barrage, Israeli authorities declared a state of war and initiated the call-up of military reservists. The tension in the region reached its peak as Israeli forces launched Operation ‘Iron Sword,’ conducting strikes on the Gaza Strip from the air, land, and sea.
The devastating toll on human lives has been immense. By nightfall, the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported 232 people killed and 1,697 injured, including two UNRWA students. As the conflict raged on, over 20,000 internally displaced people sought refuge in 44 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip, with the exception of Khan Younis. Of these, 28 were designated as emergency shelters, highlighting the dire humanitarian situation.
Yet, it is not only in Gaza that the human cost has been staggering. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, condemned “in the strongest terms” the attack by Hamas against Israeli towns, stressing the need for restraint. Reports of civilian casualties and abductions from their homes have shocked the international community and drawn widespread condemnation.
The UN chief’s deep concern for the civilian population is evident, with an urgent call for all diplomatic efforts to avoid a broader conflagration. The message is clear: civilians must be respected and protected in accordance with international humanitarian law at all times. As a gesture of sympathy and solidarity, Guterres offered his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and called for the immediate release of all abducted individuals.
In the midst of this turmoil, the UN chief reiterated the fundamental truth that violence cannot provide a solution to the conflict. Instead, he emphasized the necessity of negotiations leading to a two-state solution as the only path to lasting peace.
The situation has also drawn the attention of the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland. He condemned the morning’s multi-front assault against Israeli towns and cities near the Gaza Strip, noting the heinous nature of these attacks targeting civilians. Wennesland emphasized the urgency of the moment and called on all parties involved to exercise maximum restraint. He urged all sides to prioritize the protection of civilians in this volatile situation.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, echoed these concerns and issued a strong statement condemning the targeting of civilians. Türk expressed shock and dismay at the indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by Palestinian armed groups toward Israel, which resulted in numerous Israeli fatalities and injuries. He emphasized that civilians should never be the target of such attacks.
The Israeli response to the rocket attacks has included airstrikes in the densely populated Gaza Strip. Türk called on Israeli forces to take all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties, underscoring the importance of protecting innocent lives.
In the face of this escalating violence, Türk made a heartfelt plea for an immediate halt to the bloodshed. He called on all sides involved in the conflict and key regional countries to de-escalate the situation, emphasizing the urgent need to prevent further loss of life.
In the wake of these devastating events, the world watches with bated breath, hoping for a swift resolution to the conflict and an end to the suffering of civilians caught in the crossfire. The international community’s collective call for restraint and peace underscores the urgency of finding a diplomatic solution to this long-standing and deeply complex conflict.