WHO officials say Israeli pause has no impact on Gaza aid entry

WHO officials say Israeli pause has no impact on Gaza aid entry
WHO officials said that following Israel's assault on Gaza's southern city of Rafah, only 750 people remain in the city.
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WHO officials said that despite the Israeli pauses the organisation has not witnessed a rise in humanitarian aid entering Gaza [Getty]

A daily "pause" the Israeli military declared in Gaza to facilitate aid flows has had no impact on deliveries of badly needed aid, the UN's health agency said Friday.

"So overall, we the UN can say that we did not see an impact on the humanitarian supplies coming in since that, I will say, unilateral announcement of this technical pause," said Richard Peeperkorn, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in the Palestinian territories.

"That is the overall assessment."

Over the weekend, the Israeli military announced a daily humanitarian "pause" in fighting on a key road in southern Gaza.

Days later however, a United Nations spokesman said "this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need".

According to the WHO, as of 17 May, only 750 people remained in the city of Rafah.

There were between 60,000 and 75,000 in the Al-Mawasi area in the south of the Gaza Strip, where many Palestinians have taken refuge since the start of the Israeli offensive in Rafah.

Dr Thanos Gargavanis, a trauma surgeon and emergency officer at the WHO, said the UN in Gaza was trying to "operate in an unworkable environment".

Returning from Gaza, the UN Women's Special Representative for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Maryse Guimond, described the territory as a "world of devastation".

She added: "More than one million people in Gaza are in constant displacement" in the hope of finding somewhere safe.

However, the WHO's Dr Gargavanis said that "no place is safe".

Medical evacuations

The WHO is calling for the Rafah crossing to be reopened for humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.

Another alternative for medical evacuations would be the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel, Peeperkorn said, adding that it should only be done when safe.

It would be "for a sustained transfer of patients from Gaza to the West Bank and East Jerusalem referral hospitals. Just like it was prior to the war," he said.

According to the WHO, only 17 of the 36 hospitals in Gaza are operational, but only partially.

Some 4,900 patients have been evacuated from Gaza for war-related or chronic medical reasons since 7 October, and the WHO currently estimates that at least 10,000 more people need to be evacuated.

No patients have been evacuated since the closure of the Rafah crossing on 7 May, the WHO added.

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More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas's unprecedented 7 October attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine.

The October Hamas attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized captives, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, with a further 85,653 wounded.