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21 May, 2024 20:12

Food distribution in Rafah suspended – UN

Israel’s offensive in Gaza’s southern city has been disrupting the movement of humanitarian aid, according to a statement
Food distribution in Rafah suspended – UN

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said on Tuesday that food distribution in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah was currently suspended due to lack of supplies and to insecurity amid Israel’s offensive there.

Deliveries of international aid have dropped off significantly since Israel stepped up military operations in and around Rafah earlier this month, closing the border crossing to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

On Monday, Israeli forces renewed attacks in central Gaza, bombarding towns in the north of the enclave and saying it would broaden its operations in Rafah, despite international warnings of a risk of mass casualties in the densely populated city. On Tuesday, IDF forces raided the West Bank city of Jenin, reportedly killing seven Palestinians, including a doctor.

According to an UNRWA post on X (formerly Twitter), only seven out of its 24 health centers are currently operational. The UN agency said it had not received any medical supplies in the past ten days due to “closures/disruptions” at the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings into Gaza.

“We desperately need a safe passage – not just for humanitarian supplies but also for humanitarian personnel,” UNRWA Communications Officer Louise Wateridge said.

UN officials have been sounding alarm over aid-distribution issues, saying there is still not enough to avoid mass hunger in Gaza and pointing to multiple difficulties in getting aid to where it is needed.

The Israeli agency coordinating the movement of humanitarian aid (COGAT) said on Tuesday that just 14 trucks had been transferred through a temporary US-built floating pier since it started operating last week. Aid offloaded at the pier reportedly comes by ship from Cyprus, but is first inspected by Israel.

According to COGAT, a total of 403 aid trucks were inspected and transferred to the Gaza on Monday, including 40 through the northern crossing of Erez West.

UN aid workers were cited by Reuters as saying that, although the floating pier was meant to help ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, only deliveries through land borders could ensure relief on the scale that is needed. Some 1.1 million of the Palestinian enclave’s 2.3 million residents are reportedly facing serious food shortages.

West Jerusalem launched its massive military campaign in Gaza after Hamas’ deadly incursion into Israeli territory last October. On that day, Hamas killed an estimated 1,200 people and took over 200 hostages, half of whom were later released as part of prisoner exchanges.

Israel’s military operation has since claimed the lives of more than 35,000 Palestinians, with nearly 80,000 sustaining injuries, according to health authorities in the enclave.