UN agency for Palestinians says barred from North Gaza aid deliveries

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UN agency for Palestinians says barred from North Gaza aid deliveries

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip queue outside the Rafah border crossing on the Egyptian side. — AFP pic

GAZA, March 25 — The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said yesterday that Israel had definitively barred it from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza, where the threat of famine is highest.

“Despite the tragedy unfolding under our watch, the Israeli Authorities informed the UN that they will no longer approve any @UNRWA food convoys to the north,” Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the agency, said on X.

“This is outrageous & makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man made famine.”

Israel did not immediately respond Sunday to AFP’s request for comment about Lazzarini’s statement.

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UNRWA director of communications Juliette Touma told AFP the decision had been relayed in a meeting with Israeli military officials yesterday. It followed two denials in writing for convoy deliveries to the north last week.

No reason for the decision was given, Touma said.

Gaza faces dire humanitarian conditions as a result of Israel’s war against Hamas that began nearly six months ago, triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7.

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Last week a UN-backed food security assessment warned that famine was projected to hit the north of Gaza by May unless there was urgent intervention.

UNRWA has not been able to deliver food to the north since January 29, Touma said.

“The latest decision is another nail in the coffin” for efforts to get desperately needed aid to Gazans reeling from war, Touma said.

Martin Griffiths, head of the UN humanitarian coordination office, said on X on Sunday that UNRWA “is the beating heart of the humanitarian response in Gaza”.

He added: “The decision to block its food convoys to the north only pushes thousands closer to famine. It must be revoked.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation, said on X that blocking UNRWA aid deliveries was “in fact denying starving people the ability to survive”.

Earlier Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an end to the “non-stop nightmare” endured by Gaza’s 2.4 million people in the territory’s worst-ever war.

Palestinians gather to receive aid outside a UNRWA warehouse as Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger in Gaza City March 18, 2024. — Reuters pic

Palestinians gather to receive aid outside a UNRWA warehouse as Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger in Gaza City March 18, 2024. — Reuters pic

Israel has accused UNRWA staff members of participating in the October 7 attack and called the agency “a front for Hamas”.

Touma said Israeli authorities on Sunday also rejected a UN request to send a team to Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, where fighting has flared for almost a week, “to evacuate people who are injured”.

The October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

Israel’s military campaign to eliminate Hamas has killed at least 32,226 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory. — AFP

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