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Over 100,000 Gazans injured, missing or dead, WHO says


The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that over 100,000 Gazans are injured, missing or presumed dead as the situation deteriorates in the enclave after a fresh round of conflict between Hamas and Israel began in October last year. 

The figure makes up 4.3 percent of Gaza's 2.3 million population, according to Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative for the occupied Palestinian territory.

Speaking to a United Nations weekly briefing via video link from Jerusalem, Peeperkorn said the rest of the population faces dire circumstances, struggling to secure their basic needs of safety, food, health and warmth.

Central Gaza is witnessing an escalation of hostilities, further crippling access to existing health facilities, he said.

The humanitarian crisis extends beyond healthcare, with food insecurity and water contamination creating fertile ground for the spread of infectious diseases.

The WHO representative in Gaza cited alarming statistics: over 245,000 recorded cases of respiratory infections, 160,000 cases of diarrhea among children under five, and nearly 70,000 cases of scabies and lice. Malnutrition has become a significant concern, exacerbated by limited food distribution within Gaza.

Attacks against healthcare facilities were also highlighted, with Peeperkorn reporting 342 recorded attacks resulting in 627 fatalities and 783 injuries. Sixty-one health workers were currently detained, further crunching the already strained healthcare system.

As thousands of Palestinians have continued to flee from northern Khan Younis to Rafah in southern Gaza, the city, which is already hosting over half the population of about 2.3 million people, is "a pressure cooker of despair," Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office, said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Israel warned that Rafah, once a "safe zone" for refugees, would be the Israeli army's next target for a ground assault.

"The Khan Younis Brigade of the Hamas organization is disbanded, we will complete the mission there and continue to Rafah," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a post on the social media platform X late on Thursday. "We will continue until the end, there is no other way."

Hamas officials said on Friday that it is studying a proposed ceasefire deal that would include prolonged pauses in fighting in Gaza and exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas remains committed to its initial demands for a permanent ceasefire, the group's top political leader Ismail Haniyeh and a senior Beirut-based official, Osama Hamdan, said. Hamdan also said the group seeks the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held for acts related to the conflict with Israel.

Yemen's armed Houthi group struck the Israeli city of Eilat on Friday with several ballistic missiles, an attack it said was intended to show its support to the Palestinian people in the war-ravaged Gaza, 

Hours earlier, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they intercepted a surface-to-surface missile in the Red Sea. No sirens were triggered during the incident.

Tensions in the Red Sea have continued to escalate as the U.S.-UK maritime coalition launched seven air strikes against Houthi sites in the northwestern Yemeni province of Hajjah on Friday, the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported, after Houthi forces vowed to launch more attacks targeting Israeli-linked commercial vessels and U.S.-UK coalition warships.

(With input from agencies)

(Cover: A child wears a hazmat suit left over from the COVID-19 pandemic prevention to protect himself from cold weather in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 2, 2024. /CFP)

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