The United Nations expressed profound regret over the resumption of hostilities in Gaza after the truce ended, raising concerns about the potential Israeli expansion of the military offensive in Palestinian territory.

The United Nations said that it deeply regretted the resumption of deadly hostilities in the Gaza Strip on Friday following the end of a truce between Israel and Hamas, calling the situation “catastrophic.”

The UN also said that it was troubled by indications that Israel could seek to expand its military offensive inside the Palestinian territory.

Fighting resumed in Gaza immediately after the expiry of a week-long truce, with the first fatalities reported minutes later, according to health officials in the enclave.

“I still hope that it will be possible to renew the pause that was established. The return to hostilities only shows how important it is to have a true humanitarian ceasefire,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on X, formerly Twitter.

People gather to identify the bodies of family members killed in Israeli strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, at the al-Najjar hospital on December 1, 2023. (Photo by Mohammed Abed / AFP)

UN human rights chief Volker Turk urged all parties and states with influence to try and bring about a ceasefire on humanitarian and human rights grounds. “Recent comments by Israeli political and military leaders indicating that they are planning to expand and intensify the military offensive are very troubling,” he added. “The situation is beyond crisis point.”

‘Hell on Earth’

Turk called for an “immediate end to the violence, the prompt and unconditional release of all remaining hostages, the cessation of the firing of indiscriminate rockets and use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas.”

UN humanitarian agency OCHA also said that despite the return of hostilities, the United Nations would continue to deliver food, water, medical and other supplies to Gaza in an attempt to save lives.

After a week of respite, “hell on Earth has returned to Gaza,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said at a briefing in Geneva.

He said that during the truce, significantly larger convoys of aid, fuel and cooking gas had been able to enter the enclave, including thousands of metric tonnes of aid delivered to the north.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF condemned the resumption of fighting, saying, “Today, those in power have decided that the killing of children would recommence.”

Katrine Dige Houmøller, with AFP