UN says Israel 'systematically' blocking Gaza aid access

AFP , Tuesday 27 Feb 2024

Israeli forces are "systematically" blocking access to people in Gaza, complicating the task of delivering aid in what has become a lawless war zone, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Aid Trucks
File Photo: Trucks carrying humanitarian aid line up at the Rafah Border Crossing, Egypt, on the way to Gaza. Hundreds of trucks are lined up at Rafah, sometimes waiting weeks to go through the process. AP


It has become nearly impossible to evacuate the sick or wounded and deliver aid in northern Gaza and increasingly difficult in the south, said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

All planned aid convoys into the north have been denied by Israeli authorities in recent weeks.

The last allowed-in was on January 23, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Even convoys cleared in advance with Israeli authorities have been blocked or come under fire.

Laerke pointed to an incident on Sunday, when a convoy to evacuate 24 patients from the besieged Al Amal hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, jointly organized by the WHO and Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS), was blocked for seven hours and paramedics detained.


"Despite prior coordination for all staff members and vehicles with the Israeli side, the Israeli forces blocked the WHO-led convoy for many hours the moment it left the hospital," Laerke told journalists in Geneva.

"The Israeli military forced patients and staff out of ambulances and stripped all paramedics of their clothes," he said.

The convoy had to leave another 31 patients behind at Amal, which is no longer functioning after suffering 40 attacks in the past month alone that have killed at least 25 people.

"Three PRCS paramedics were subsequently detained, although their details had been shared with the Israeli forces in advance," Laerke said. Just one has been released.

"This is not an isolated incident," he stressed.

"Aid convoys have come under fire and are systematically denied access to people in need (meaning) humanitarian workers are subject to unacceptable and preventable risk."

The PRCS said it was suspending operations in Gaza for 48 hours because Israel has failed to ensure the safety of its emergency medical teams.

Laerke said the UN would continue to remind Israeli forces they had an obligation, at a minimum, to facilitate "safe, smooth, and rapid passage" when alerted to aid missions.

Desperate people 

Since Oct.7, ​Israel's relentless military campaign has killed at least 29,878 people in Gaza, 70% of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The situation in the densely populated Palestinian territory is increasingly desperate.

Laerke said UN aid trucks, which travel without armed guards, are often stopped as soon as they cross into Gaza by crowds of people desperate for food and other aid.

"Desperate people take what they can," he said.

But gangs also appeared to be taking aid which later turned up on the black market, he added, warning of an "increasing breakdown of civil order inside Gaza".

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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