Israel stops UNRWA delivering aid to starving Palestinians in north Gaza

Israel stops UNRWA delivering aid to starving Palestinians in north Gaza
Israel has stopped UNRWA from delivering aid in northern Gaza, where Palestinians are at highest risk of famine
3 min read
Israel has prevented UNRWA from providing aid to Palestinians in northern Gaza [Getty]

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) said on Sunday that Israel had definitively barred it from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza, where the threat of famine is highest.

"Despite the tragedy unfolding under our watch, the Israeli Authorities informed the UN that they will no longer approve any @UNRWA food convoys to the north," Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the agency, said on X.

"This is outrageous & makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man made famine."

Israel did not immediately respond Sunday to AFP's request for comment about Lazzarini's statement.

UNRWA director of communications Juliette Touma told AFP the decision had been relayed in a meeting with Israeli military officials on Sunday. It followed two denials in writing for convoy deliveries to the north last week.

No reason for the decision was given, Touma said.

Gaza faces horrific humanitarian conditions as a result of Israel's brutal and indiscriminate war that began nearly six months ago, following Hamas's unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7.

The territory has been left in ruins, with most of its population fleeing south to Rafah. At least 32,333 people have been killed, most of them women and children, according to Gaza's health ministry.

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Last week a UN-backed food security assessment warned that famine was projected to hit the north of Gaza by May unless there was urgent intervention.

UNRWA has not been able to deliver food to the north since January 29, Touma said.

"The latest decision is another nail in the coffin" for efforts to get desperately needed aid to Gazans reeling from war, Touma said.

Martin Griffiths, head of the UN humanitarian coordination office, said on X on Sunday that UNRWA "is the beating heart of the humanitarian response in Gaza".

He added: "The decision to block its food convoys to the north only pushes thousands closer to famine. It must be revoked."

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said on X that blocking UNRWA aid deliveries was "in fact denying starving people the ability to survive".

Earlier Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an end to the "non-stop nightmare" endured by Gaza's 2.4 million people in the territory's worst-ever war.

Israel has claimed without evidence that UNRWA staff members participated in the October 7 attack and called the agency "a front for Hamas".

Touma said Israeli authorities on Sunday also rejected a UN request to send a team to Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, where fighting has flared for almost a week, "to evacuate people who are injured".