A World Health Organization (WHO) official warned Tuesday that an intensifying Israeli offensive in southern Gaza is creating a humanitarian situation that is “getting worse by the hour.”
“There’s intensified bombing going on all around, including here in the southern areas, Khan Younis and even in Rafah,” WHO Gaza representative Richard Peeperkorn said at a press conference.
The Israeli offensive advanced toward Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city, on Tuesday. The Israeli military ordered civilian evacuations in parts of the city, further displacing an estimated 150,000 people.
More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has been displaced due to the conflict, according to the United Nations.
The war in Gaza began in early October, after Hamas killed about 1,200 Israelis and took hostages in a surprise attack Oct. 7.
Peeperkorn described the humanitarian aid situation in Gaza as “way too little,” adding that the WHO is concerned about the ability of the Gaza health system — ravaged by weeks of Israeli bombardment — to keep up with increasing civilian casualties.
“We will witness the same pattern of what happened in the north,” he said. “That cannot happen. … I want to make this point very clear that we are looking at an increasing humanitarian disaster.”
Humanitarian leaders have warned that Gazans are running out of places to flee from the conflict as the Israeli military continues from the north of Gaza to the south. The civilians also can’t leave Gaza due to a closed border with Egypt.
UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said the areas designated safe for civilians in Gaza are not adequate, warning that conditions are a “perfect storm” for disease.
“It’s a safe zone when you can guarantee the conditions of food, water, medicine and shelter,” he said in the same press conference, noting that wasn’t the case in Gaza.
Peeperkorn also said the WHO had complied with an Israeli order to empty a warehouse in Khan Younis of food and medical supplies after it was warned that the area would soon become a combat zone. The organization had initially appealed the order.
About 15,900 Palestinians have died in the war so far, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Fighting resumed Friday after a week-long pause to free nearly half of the approximately 240 hostages believed to be held by Hamas.