Gaza: Aid missions constantly under threat, warns UN humanitarian chief

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Six Palestinians are believed to have died in the Gaza City incident and 83 more were wounded as they waited for aid trucks to arrive at Kuwait Roundabout, according to news reports.

The development came after relief chief Martin Griffiths condemned the bombardment on Wednesday of a warehouse and food distribution centre in southern Rafah which killed at least one employee of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and injured 22 others.

“Devastating news for our colleagues in Gaza who have borne so much loss already, and for the families they were trying to help,” the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said in a post on X. “How are we to maintain aid operations when our teams and supplies are constantly under threat? They must be protected. This war has to stop.”

Warehouse attack

In a statement shortly after the attack, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that the warehouse hit in the Israeli attack was located in eastern Rafah and was one of the agency’s “very few remaining” distribution points.

“Food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine”, Mr. Lazzarini said, before insisting that the coordinates of the facility had been shared with all parties to the war.

Graphic photos from the warehouse showed a box of supplies covered with blood near the entrance to the facility. But there was minimal damage to supplies there which were still being sent out, according to UNRWA.

‘Humanitarian islands’ plan is disastrous warns UNRWA 

The UN agency also warned that reported Israeli plans to transfer 1.4 million Palestinians from Gaza’s southernmost city to camps or so-called “humanitarian islands” further north would be “apocalyptic”.

The proposal comes amid ongoing deep concerns expressed by the international community about an impending Israeli invasion of Rafah, five months since intense bombardment began in response to Hamas-led terror attacks that left some 1,200 dead in Israel and more than 250 taken hostage.

Where are you going to evacuate people to, as no place is safe across the Gaza Strip, the north is shattered, riddled with unexploded weapons, it’s pretty much unliveable,” said Juliette Touma, UNRWA Director of Communications. “Enough is enough. Any further escalation would be absolutely apocalyptic.”

According to UNRWA, at least 165 UNRWA team members have been killed including while in the line of duty in Gaza since 7 October. More than 150 facilities have been hit, among them many schools.

Maritime aid plan

In a related development, an NGO ship remained moored off the Gaza coastline on Thursday after setting out from southern Cyprus on Tuesday, along a new humanitarian sea lane. 

The initiative is a joint mission involving UN-partner World Central Kitchen and the search-and-rescue charity Open Arms, reportedly in coordination with the Israeli authorities and the international community. The aim is to deliver 200 tonnes of relief supplies to northern Gaza once a jetty is built south of Gaza City.

A separate plan involving the U.S. military involves delivering two million meals a day by ship to the enclave via a temporary floating structure which has yet to be built. 

Although new aid routes by sea and airdrops are welcome, UN relief agencies have insisted repeatedly that they are no substitute for supplies transported by land.

Famine threat

Famine is imminent in Gaza, UN aid teams have warned, particularly in the north of the enclave, where aid convoys have been sporadic at best, amid ongoing fighting and bombardment, repeated access refusals and a breakdown in law and order.

A World Food Programme (WFP) six-truck convoy reached northern Gaza on Tuesday after being given access through a gate in the security fence separating the enclave from Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). 

The convoy’s cargo was earlier checked at Kerem Shalom crossing further south before it was allowed to proceed north, according to the IDF, which added that more than 1,000 aid packages had been airdropped into the Gaza Strip by foreign countries in the last week.

 



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