First fuel truck since start of Israel-Hamas war enters Gaza

The diesel is only meant for UN aid trucks and not for hospitals as Israel’s siege of the strip continues.

UN-flagged fuel trucks
UN-flagged fuel trucks move towards the Rafah border crossing on October 16, 2023, during the Israel-Hamas war [File: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

The first truck delivering fuel to the Gaza Strip since the war began has arrived in the besieged enclave.

The diesel fuel truck arrived in Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Wednesday. However, it is “not at all enough”, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said, adding that use of the fuel has been “restricted” by Israel.

“Just received 23,027 LT [6,083 gallons] of fuel from Egypt (half a tanker) – but its use has been restricted by Israeli authorities – only for transporting aid from Rafah,” Tom White, the director of UNRWA Affairs in the Gaza Strip, said in a post on X.

“No fuel for water or hospitals. This is only 9% of what we need daily to sustain lifesaving activities,” he continued.

“This is the equivalent of half a truck! Not at all enough. Much more is needed. Fuel is being used as weapon of war, this must stop,” UNRWA said on X.

Israel has imposed a total siege on Gaza since attacks last month in southern Israel by Hamas. Limited deliveries of humanitarian aid have been crossing from Egypt into Gaza since October 21, but Israel had refused to let any fuel enter.

On Tuesday, it gave approval for 24,000 litres (6,340 gallons) of diesel to be allowed into Gaza, but it is meant only for UN trucks and not for Gaza’s hospitals, which are shutting down because they have no fuel to power their generators.

The fuel was delivered to the UN “to facilitate the delivery of aid after trucks on the Palestinian side stopped operating for lack of fuel”, an Egyptian source told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The Israeli Ministry of Defence unit that handles Palestinian civilian affairs had said earlier: “UN trucks transporting humanitarian aid through the Rafah crossing will be refuelled at the Rafah crossing, per US request.”

Fuel shortages have already caused or contributed to the closure of hospitals, bakeries, sewage pumping stations, water desalination plants and water wells and are threatening to shut down telecommunication data centres and connection points within 48 hours, the UN said on Tuesday.

Gaza’s two main telecommunications companies, Paltel and Jawwal, warned on Wednesday of a “complete telecom blackout in the coming hours” in the Gaza Strip due to a lack of fuel.

After the first fuel truck entered, witnesses told media two more were waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, but it was unclear when they might enter.

“To have fuel for trucks only will not save lives,” Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of UNRWA, said in a post on X. “Our entire operation is now on the verge of collapse. By the end of today, around 70% of the population in Gaza won’t have access to clean water.”

Aid agencies in Gaza say a chronic lack of fuel has hampered efforts to deliver food, water and medicine to Palestinians in Gaza, which is under siege as Israel wages a war that has killed at least 11,200 people.

Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive followed the Hamas attacks on October 7, which killed 1,200 Israelis.

On Tuesday, 91 trucks carrying food, medicine, bottled water, blankets and tents entered Gaza from Egypt, but the UN says deliveries since October 21 – 1,187 trucks in total – can meet only a fraction of Gaza’s needs.

Distribution of the aid had largely come to a halt because of lack of fuel, it said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies