UN deplores aid barriers as Israel’s Gaza onslaught steps up

Dire humanitarian crisis worsens, as at least 30 people reported killed in air strikes on refugee camps in central Gaza.

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, shelter in a tent camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 25, 2023 [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

The United Nations has warned that it is becoming increasingly difficult to get desperately needed aid into Gaza.

The UN’s humanitarian aid chief on Friday called out the “impossible situation” facing people in Gaza and those trying to help them, as the humanitarian situation on the ground worsens and dozens more civilians are reported killed in Israeli attacks.

“You think getting aid into Gaza is easy? Think again,” Martin Griffiths said in a post on the social media platform X, expressing frustration at how life-saving assistance is being hampered from entering the war-torn Strip.

Griffiths listed 14 obstructions to getting humanitarian relief into the enclave, including: constant bombardments and aid convoys coming under fire; three layers of inspections before an aid truck can enter the Palestinian territory; a constant list of rejected items; and aid workers themselves being killed and displaced by the war.

“This is an impossible situation … The fighting must stop,” he said.

Illustrating his point, Israeli soldiers fired on an aid convoy on Friday as it returned from northern Gaza along a route designated by the Israeli army, according to Thomas White, the director of the UH agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, in Gaza.

“Our international convoy leader and his team were not injured but one vehicle sustained damage – aid workers should never be a target,” White said in a post on X.

The persistent difficulty in getting humanitarian relief into Gaza comes despite the United Nations Security Council passing a resolution last week to boost aid.

Israel’s war has killed more than 21,300 Palestinians and displaced 85 percent of the population since October 7. Amid the bombardments, a military blockade on the enclave and the restrictions on aid shipments are imperilling the health of hundreds of thousands of people.

Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Rafah in southern Gaza, describes displaced and famished people from the central and northern parts of the Strip forced to queue for hours for food assistance.

“Five refugee families were staying with us, but now we’re refugees just like them,” a man sheltering at a school in Rafah told Al Jazeera, without giving his name. “I don’t know what to do. We are peaceful civilians and have no connection to what’s happening. We have children, and we can’t find milk, food or water. We can’t even find a plastic sheet.”

Mahmoud reported: “Most of the population of Gaza has been displaced multiple times in the past three months, fleeing with whatever they can carry …  UN facilities are packed full, several times beyond their maximum capacity.”

Aid groups say the situation is desperate, and UN agencies have warned that 40 percent of Gaza’s population is facing an imminent risk of famine.

“Doctors Without Borders [Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF] warns that an epidemic is inevitable, and with most hospitals and clinics out of service, when people do fall ill they will have nowhere to go,” Mahmoud said.

(Al Jazeera)

Continued push

In central Gaza, Israeli forces continue to push people south as they target sites that include refugee camps, amid which Tel Aviv insists Hamas fighters are hiding. About 35 people were reported killed in air strikes on Nuseirat and Maghazi refugee camps on Friday.

“The Israeli army seems to be stepping up its aerial bombardment,” Mahmoud said. “There is a sense of frustration as this is happening days after the resolution was passed by the UN Security Council. People are now seeing more bombs, less food and less humanitarian aid.”

The UN says 150,000 people are being forced to leave central Gaza after the Israeli army issued evacuation orders, telling people to once again move further south.

Meanwhile, on Friday morning in southern Gaza, 20 seriously ill patients in Gaza are expected to be allowed to leave for medical treatment in Egypt, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said on the social media platform Telegram.

Among the patients listed is a one-month-old girl who is suffering from a head injury.

Medical officials from Gaza have made repeated pleas that patients with serious medical conditions be allowed to leave for life-saving treatment outside the besieged territory.

Source: Al Jazeera