Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), talks to the media during a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. AP
"I do believe there is a deliberate attempt to strangle our operation and paralyse the UNRWA operation," he told a press conference in Geneva.
The remarks come as Israeli forces dropped leaflets on Thursday, warning Palestinians to flee parts of southern Gaza, residents said, signalling a possible expansion of operations to areas where hundreds of thousands of people who heeded earlier evacuation orders are crowded into UN-run shelters and family homes.
Broadening the offensive to the south — where Israel already carries out daily air raids — threatens to worsen an already severe humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory. Over 1.5 million people have been internally displaced in Gaza, with most having fled to the south, where food, water and electricity are increasingly scarce.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Wednesday the ground operation will eventually “include both the north and south. We will strike Hamas wherever it is.”
All while a worsening fuel shortage threatens to paralyse the delivery of humanitarian services and shut down mobile phone and internet service.
Israel allowed a small amount of fuel to enter Gaza on Wednesday, for the first time since the war began, so that the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, which is providing basic services to hundreds of thousands of people, could continue bringing limited supplies of aid through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
The fuel cannot be used for hospitals or to desalinate water, and covers less than 10 percent of what the agency needs to sustain "lifesaving activities,” said Thomas White, the agency’s Gaza director.
The Palestinian telecom company Paltel, meanwhile, said it expected services to halt later Wednesday because of the lack of fuel or electricity. Gaza has experienced three previous mass communication outages since the ground invasion.
If Israeli troops move south, it is not clear where Gaza’s population can flee, as Egypt and Jordan rejected the Israeli policy of displacement or attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause at the expense of neighbouring countries.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online