Israel-Palestine conflict: Gaza death toll touches 5,000 with no ceasefire in sight

The number of people killed in Gaza has exceeded 5,000 according to latest reports from de facto authorities there, amid intensifying Israeli airstrikes in response to Hamas attacks, while humanitarians repeated urgent calls for a ceasefire and more aid convoys.

People queue outside a bakery in Gaza. Photo Courtesy: UNICEF/Ayad El Eyad

Echoing that message, UN health agency (World Health Organization) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a new appeal on Monday for “sustained safe passage” for medical essentials and fuel to keep health facilities open.

“Lives depend on these decisions,” he insisted on social media platform X.

Latest media reports citing the Gaza Ministry of Health indicate that the number of people killed in Gaza since 7 October has risen to 5,087.

Women and children have made up more than 62 per cent of the fatalities, while more than 15,273 people have been injured.

UNRWA staff killed now 35

In addition to the overall death toll, the number of UN staff members working with the Palestine refugee agency UNRWA, has reached 35, according to the latest situation report released late on Monday. A further 18 staffers have been injured.

At least 40 UNRWA installations have been damaged since the violence began on 7 October.

UNRWA said nearly 600,000 internally displaced are sheltering in 150 UNRWA facilities overall with nearly 420,000 seeking refuge in 93 of the agency's shelters in Middle, Khan Younis and Rafah areas, further to the south – that's an increase of around 14,000 civilians in the past 24 hours.

In its latest humanitarian update on the crisis, the UN humanitarian aid coordination office, OCHA, said that more than 1,000 have been reported missing and “are presumed to be trapped or dead under the rubble”.

The largest medical facility in Gaza, Shifa hospital, is now treating around 5,000 patients, many times beyond its normal figure of around 700.

The UN Spokesperson said on Monday that the average number of people staying in Gaza shelters is 4,400, around 2.5 times their designated capacity.

Around 70 civilians are sharing space in each UNRWA classroom.

Israel: Threefold rise in deaths

According to Israeli official sources quoted by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 1,400 people have been killed in Israel, the vast majority in the Hamas attacks on 7 October which triggered the latest conflict.

OCHA said that the reported fatality toll is “over threefold the cumulative number of Israelis killed” since it began recording casualties in 2005.

At least 212 Israeli and foreign nationals are being held captive in Gaza, the Israeli authorities have said. Two hostages were released last Friday. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly called upon Hamas to release hostages immediately and unconditionally.

Trickle of aid

A new aid convoy entered Gaza from Egypt on Monday through the Rafah border crossing comprises 20 trucks according to the Egyptian Red Crescent, said UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, briefing reporters in New York.

He said that was equivalent to just four per cent of the pre-crisis level of daily needs, for commodities for Gaza's population of more than two million.

This was the third such delivery after the crossing opened on Saturday for the first time since the start of the conflict, following intense diplomatic efforts.

A total of 34 trucks with aid provided by the UN and the Egyptian Red Crescent entered the enclave over the weekend. The UN has stressed that to respond to soaring humanitarian needs, at least 100 aid trucks per day are required.

Desperate need for fuel

The development comes as (UNRWA) warned on Sunday that it was set to run out of fuel within three days, putting the humanitarian response in Gaza at risk.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said that without fuel, “there will be no water, no functioning hospitals and bakeries” and that “no fuel will further strangle the children, women and people of Gaza”.

Education void

Meanwhile, OCHA said that more than 625,000 children in Gaza have been deprived of education for at least 12 days, and 206 schools have been damaged. At least 29 of them are UNRWA-run establishments.

UNRWA reported on Sunday that 29 of its staff members have been killed in Gaza since 7 October – half of them teachers.

In the occupied West Bank, the escalation has also resulted in restrictions on the access to education. OCHA said that all the schools inside the territory were closed from 7 to 9 October, affecting some 782,000 students. As of last week, over 230 schools which cater to some 50,000 students had not reopened.

Emergency Special Session to convene Thursday

The Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly has confirmed that the 10th Emergency Special Session on Israel and Palestine will reconvene this Thursday.

The session is officially titled: Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Special sessions are convened allowing the UN's entire membership to make recommendations for collective measures during times of intractable crisis – if requested by either the Security Council (seven of its members or more) or a majority of the General Assembly.

The Tenth Emergency Session was last adjourned in 2018.

'Humanity must come first' – rights chief

A broad humanitarian ceasefire is essential for both Gaza and Israel, said the UN human rights chief Volker Türk.

“Far too many civilian lives, many of them children, have already been lost – on both sides – as a consequence of these hostilities. And, unless something changes, coming days will see more civilians on the brink of death from continuing bombardment. Humanity must come first,” the High Commissioner said.

Noting the Gaza Strip is already on the verge of catastrophe, he said the reports of overcrowding and disease spreading, "are deeply worrying".

“This violence will never end unless leaders stand up and take the brave and humane choices that are required by fundamental humanity. The first step must be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, saving the lives of civilians through the delivery of prompt and effective humanitarian aid, throughout Gaza, provided according to need and not limited by any other, arbitrary criteria,” he added.