Humanitarian aid is stuck at Gaza-Egypt border as Israeli siege strains hospitals, water supply

AP , Monday 16 Oct 2023

Hospitals in Gaza faced collapse Monday as water, power, and medicine neared depletion, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians searched for dwindling food supplies while Israel maintained punishing airstrikes in retaliation for last week's attack page by Hamas.

Displaced Palestinians reside at an UNRWA-run school in Khan Yunis in the southern of Gaza Strip, on October 16, 2023. AP


Thousands of patients’ lives were at risk, UN officials said, and mediators struggled for a ceasefire to let in aid waiting at the Egyptian border.

More than a week after Israel stopped entry of any supplies, all eyes were on the Rafah crossing, Gaza's only connection to Egypt, where trucks carrying aid have waited for days to pass through.

Israel forced the crossing to shut down with airstrikes on the Gaza side last week and has not agreed to reopen it for aid. Egyptian state TV and Gaza media reported Israel struck the crossing again on Monday.

As Israel prepared a likely ground offensive into Gaza that would mean deadly house-to-house fighting, fears rose over the conflict spreading.

Speaking to the Israeli Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and Hezbollah, “Don’t test us in the north.

Don’t make the mistake of the past. Today, the price you will pay will be far heavier,” referring to Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, which operates out of Lebanon.

This has become the deadliest of the five Gaza wars for both sides. At least 2,778 have been killed and 9,700 wounded in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry there. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed.

The combination of airstrikes pulverizing neighborhoods, dwindling supplies, and Israel’s mass evacuation order for the north of the Gaza Strip has thrown the tiny territory’s 2.3 million people into upheaval and increasing desperation.

More than 1 million have fled their homes, and 60% of them are now in the approximately 14-kilometer-long (8 mile) area south of the evacuation zone, according to the UN.

Hospitals are expected to run out of generator fuel in the next 24 hours, meaning life-saving equipment like incubators and ventilators will stop functioning, the UN said.

People grew increasingly desperate in their search for food and water. With taps dry, many have resorted to drinking dirty or sewage-filled water, risking the spread of disease.

More than 400,000 displaced people in the south crowded into schools and other facilities of the UN Agency for Palestinians.

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said many of its personnel decided to stay in the north to treat the wounded. They had run out of painkillers, and staff reported “wounded screaming in pain," it said.

The World Health Organization said assistance for 300,000 patients was currently awaiting entry through Rafah.

On the Gaza side of the crossing, crowds of Palestinians with dual citizenship waited anxiously, sitting on suitcases or crouched on the floor, some comforting crying infants.

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