A view of Jerusalem's Old City | Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun
A general view shows the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem's Old City December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun *** Local Caption *** 07.12.17 09.04.18

A senior UN official on Monday urged Israel to immediately allow the shipment of fuel and other essential items into the besieged Gaza Strip to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

In an emailed press statement, Jamie McGoldrick, UN coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, also called on Hamas, ruler of Gaza, to end actions that risk destabilization in the Palestinian enclave.

The latest round of tension between Israel and Hamas, which has been ruling Gaza since 2007, started on Aug. 6 when masked young men launched incendiary balloons carrying explosives into southern Israel.

In response, Israel banned the shipment of fuels and other essential items into Gaza. It also closed the fishing area off Gaza’s coast, and used warplanes and tanks to attack sites and facilities belonging to Hamas militants.

The UN-facilitated fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant, which already ceased operations on Aug. 18, is also prevented from entering Gaza, according to McGoldrick.

Banning the shipment of fuel caused a severe electricity crisis across the Gaza Strip, as the electricity company said the power cut sometimes reached 20 hours a day.

“At present, people have access to rolling electricity supply for a maximum of four hours per day, a difficult situation at any point, but especially serious given the efforts to contain the outbreak of COVID-19,” the UN official said.

McGoldrick also warned of a significant deterioration in the health situation as the first cases of COVID-19 outside the quarantine facilities were confirmed on Aug. 24.

“Thus far, there are 280 known active cases, 243 of which are from community transmission,” he said.

“Power outages in hospitals are having serious repercussions, with patients in intensive care, chronic and emergency cases particularly vulnerable,” he added.

“The operations of water wells, sewage pumping stations, wastewater treatment plants and some desalination plants” are also impacted by the reduction in electricity supply, McGoldrick warned.

“There is now a high risk of sewage flooding populated areas, increased pollution into the Mediterranean Sea and along the coast, and further pollution to the aquifer,” he said.

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