More than 263,000 people have been displaced in Gaza during ongoing Israeli airstrikes, with the number “expected to rise further,” the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said early Wednesday.
The figure represents more than one in 10 of the population in the densely populated enclave.
Among those displaced, at least 175,486 people are seeking shelter in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, while about 3,000 people remain displaced due to previous escalations, OCHA said in its update.
It marks the highest number of internally displaced Palestinians since the 50-day escalation of hostilities in 2014, OCHA said.
“This is increasing the caseload for humanitarian organizations to meet displaced people’s basic needs of shelter, bedding, food, water and sanitation facilities,” the UN agency said.
The Israeli airstrikes have targeted telecommunication installations, destroying two of the three main lines for mobile communications that has disrupted mobile and internet service, OCHA said.
Basic needs such as access to water have also become a challenge due to damage and the reduction in power supply to sewage infrastructure, OCHA said. In Beit Lahia and northern areas, sewage and solid waste have accumulated in streets due to damage to sewage lines and infrastructure, it added.
The Hamas-controlled government in Gaza said on Wednesday that electricity supply "will completely stop within hours," limiting the ability to provide basic services.
Some context: A humanitarian crisis is swiftly unfolding in Gaza, as trapped residents, many cut off from food and electricity, face a fifth day of Israeli airstrikes in response to Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel.
More than half of its 2 million population lives in poverty and is food insecure, with nearly 80% relying on humanitarian assistance.
On Monday, the UN Secretary-General called for Hamas to cease its attacks on Israel and release hostages and urged all parties to allow UN access to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinians trapped in Gaza.