Aid agencies struggle to distribute food as hundreds of thousands flee Israeli assault on Rafah

Ahram Online , Monday 13 May 2024

UN officials say 360,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah in the past week amid Israel’s intensified assault on the southern Gaza city, and aid agencies are rushing to distribute dwindling food supplies to the newly displaced people.

Palestinian who fled Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip ride with their belongings in the back of a truck, as they arrive to take shelter in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, May 2024. AFP


Abeer Etefa, a spokesperson for the UN’s World Food Program, said Monday that 38 trucks carrying flour had arrived through the Western Erez Crossing - one of two access points still operating to the largely devastated northern sector of the Gaza Strip.

But no food has entered the two main crossings in southern Gaza for the past week.

The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza has been closed since Israeli troops seized the Palestinian side of the crossing a week ago.

Meanwhile, Israeli ground assault on Rafah city has made it impossible for aid groups to access the nearby Karm Abu Salem crossing with Israel.

Rafah residents on Monday received more evacuation orders through phone calls and text messages, sending yet more people to start packing and leave their homes, witnesses said.

AFP correspondents reported helicopter strikes and heavy artillery shelling in the east of Rafah, as well as battles in northern Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp and Gaza City's Zeitun neighbourhood.

The main UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, said Monday that so far 360,000 people have fled Rafah, where some 1.3 million Palestinians had been crowded for weeks after fleeing Israel’s onslaught elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.

Etefa said WFP is distributing food from its remaining stocks in the areas of Khan Younis and Deir Balah further north to which many of those escaping Rafah have fled, adding the situation is becoming “increasingly unsustainable.”

Almost the entire population of Gaza relies on humanitarian groups’ distribution of food and other supplies to survive.

Amid Israeli restrictions and obstacles to aid distribution, some 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza face catastrophic levels of hunger, are on the brink of starvation, and a “full-blown famine” is taking place in the north, according to the UN.

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