As Israel’s bombardment of the occupied Gaza Strip continued Thursday in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, United Nations leaders reiterated calls for a cease-fire and, until an agreement is reached, a “humanitarian pause” so that aid workers can provide essential supplies and transport out patients in critical need of care.

“The health system, which faces shortages even when there’s no bombing, is out of key materials to treat the injured such as blood bags.”
—Ely Sok, MSF

Before reports of a possible cease-first starting Friday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the “dangerous and horrific surge in deadly violence” over the past 10 days—which has killed over 200 Palestinians, including dozens of children, along with 12 Israelis—in remarks to the U.N. General Assembly.

Guterres said he is “deeply shocked” by the Israel Defense Forces’ ongoing air and artillery bombardment of Gaza, while also calling the “continued indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas and other militant groups” toward Israel “unacceptable.” He declared that “the fighting must stop immediately,” urging a cease-fire.

That demand was echoed at a Thursday press briefing for the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.

“The fighting must stop immediately,” and until a cease-fire is reached, “all parties to the conflict must agree to a humanitarian pause to ensure access into and out of Gaza for humanitarian staff and critical goods,” said Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, head of the WHO Office for the West Bank and Gaza.

The “prevailing insecurity” is preventing much-needed supplies and personnel from reaching Gaza, Peeperkorn explained. “We are ready,” he added, to deliver a “huge convoy of essential humanitarian cargo” to Gazans, and to “get patients out and get humanitarian personnel in.”

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Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO’s regional director, said during the briefing that “the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory has resulted in a substantial number of fatalities and casualties, as well as significant damage to many health facilities.”

As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, the recent escalation in violence had led to the deaths of multiple key doctors in Gaza, further straining a health system that was already stressed by the blockade that Israel and Egypt have enforced since 2007.

Impacts of Israel’s current assault on Gaza include “the almost total destruction of Hala Al Shawa primary care clinic and substantial damage to the central testing laboratory for Covid-19 at Rimal clinic in Gaza City,” said Al-Mandhari.

He continued: