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UN Suspends Food Aid to Rafah, Cites Lack of Supplies and Insecurity

May 22, 2024
Image Credit: AlJazeera/Flickr

The United Nations (UN) halted food distribution in Rafah, southern Gaza, on 21 May due to insufficient supplies and heightened security risks stemming from Israel’s intensified military operations.

UNRWA, the main agency for Palestinian refugees, announced the suspension on X, attributing it to the lack of supplies.

When questioned over the suspension, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric explained that both UNRWA’s distribution centre and the World Food Programme’s (WFP) warehouses in Rafah were “inaccessible due to ongoing military operations.”

The humanitarian supply crisis has escalated since Israel’s military invasion of Rafah on 6 May, with several hundred thousand Palestinians still trapped and under threat of airstrikes.

Israeli forces have since seized the Rafah crossing, which remains closed.

Since the invasion, only about three dozen trucks have managed to enter Gaza through the Karam Abu Salem crossing (also known as Kerem Shalom) due to ongoing conflict – placing trapped Palestinians at risk of starvation.

Abeer Etefa, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), expressed grave concerns to The Guardian, stating that all “humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse.”

A US-constructed and operated floating pier intended to streamline the entry of aid through the sea.

However, the UN noted that no aid trucks had entered Gaza in the past two days – warning that the USD 320 million (EGP 14.9 billion) project might fail without Israel providing the necessary conditions for safe humanitarian operations.

The food agency is reassessing logistics and security strategies and exploring alternative routes within Gaza. They are also exploring collaborating with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to facilitate food deliveries via the new US route.

According to the WFP, approximately 1.1 million people in Gaza – nearly half the population – are facing dire hunger levels, warning that the territory is on the verge of famine.

Israeli announced that the crossing was open for aid once more on 22 May, but the UNRWA denied the country’s claim quickly after.

Kamal Adwan Hospital, one of the few medical facilities still operating in northern Gaza, was evacuated after being targeted by Israeli troops and at risk of missile strikes. Around 150 staff and numerous patients, including those in intensive care and infants in incubators, fled under shelling.

Nearby Awda Hospital has been encircled by troops for three days, with an artillery shell striking its fifth floor.

Since 7 October, over 35,000 people – many of them children and women – have been reported killed in the seven-month-long conflict, according to the latest data reported by WAFA Agency. An additional 79,000 were injured with many more trapped under rubble caused by Israeli airstrikes.

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