2023 marked the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since the United Nations records began in 2005.
The worsening situation in the occupied West Bank is being overlooked by Israel’s renewed onslaught of the Gaza Strip, according to Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner General for the Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, also known as UNRWA.
“The [occupied] West Bank situation is overshadowed by Gaza” he told Al Jazeera during an interview published yesterday. “The number of people who have been killed is also staggering compared with any previous year.”
Israeli forces have been conducting raid-and-search operations in the occupied West Bank, with Al Jazeera reporting that Jenin city has experienced as many as 15 such incursions since October 7.
Such raids typically turn deadly. Reuters reported on Thursday that after a days-long raid by Israeli forces, at least 11 Palestinians were killed.
According to Lazzarini, the number of people who have been killed in the occupied territory is at a record high. “The number of incursions also in various cities and camps are almost daily,” he added in his Al Jazeera interview. “We see also that the Israeli incursions in the camps for security operations are becoming more and more brutal.”
According to an UNRWA report published on Wednesday, 2023 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since UN records began in 2005. 271 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed by Israeli forces since October, with an additional eight Palestinian fatalities caused by settlers, the report added.
“World War I conditions in Gaza”
Also speaking to Al Jazeera, on Tuesday, Doctors without Borders’ (MSF) Palestinian Mission head, Leo Cans, compared the struggling health care sector in Gaza with the carnage seen during World War I.
“To give you a picture, in two months we passed from a relatively good health system, with very good doctors and highly educated surgeons. They are now operating in a setting that is the same as in World War I,” Cans said.
According to Omar Rahman, a fellow at the Doha-based Middle East Council on Global Affairs, Israel’s targeting of hospitals is to send a clear message. “Attacking hospitals tells the population that nowhere for [Palestinians] is safe,” he told Al Jazeera.
The health sector crisis in Gaza is at breaking point, with only 13 out 36 hospitals functioning, and only partially, according to a December 11 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs flash update.
In an infographic published on December 12 by the UN, just 8 out of 22 UNRWA medical centres are still functional and only in central and southern Gaza.
With 1.93 estimated people displaced, all in dire need of medical attention and shelter from struggling humanitarian missions, OCHA said there has been a significant increase in communicable diseases among IDPS in Gaza. According to OCHA’s flash update, there is an outbreak of “diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, skin infections and hygiene-related conditions like lice.”
Speaking about Gaza’s overwhelmed hospitals, the World Health Organisation described the situation as a “humanitarian disaster zone.” In their briefing published on Tuesday, the WHO cited Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said that “the people of Gaza have the right to access health care. The health system must be protected. Even in war.”