GENEVA - The plight of civilians affected by war in 2023 was “resoundingly dire”, as the world witnessed horrors not only in Gaza and southern Israel but also the intense suffering of populations in other crisis hotspots around the globe, senior UN officials said on Tuesday.

The United Nations alone documented over 33,000 civilian deaths in armed conflicts in 2023 – a horrific 72 per cent increase compared to the previous year – Joyce Msuya, UN Deputy Relief Coordinator, told ambassadors at the Security Council.

With the actual figures “likely higher”, the harm and suffering caused to civilians in 2023 “signals an alarming lack of compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” she said.

She went on to stress that the “reality is that much of the civilian harm we see in today’s conflicts is occurring even when parties claim to be acting in compliance with the law.”

Gaza: A war on children


The senior UN humanitarian drew particular attention to the desperate situation in Gaza where the ongoing Israeli military operation – following the brutal 7 October attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups – has “resulted in death, destruction and suffering at a pace and scale unprecedented in the recent past.”

Tens of thousands have been killed and wounded. Over 75 per cent of the enclave’s population is forcibly displaced and a famine is looming.

“Thousands of children have been killed and injured in what UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) colleagues have called a ‘war on children’,” she said, adding that an estimated 130 Israelis remain hostage amid concerns for their humane treatment.