Israel orders new evacuations in northern Gaza

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — The World Food Program said Tuesday it has suspended food deliveries to isolated northern Gaza due to mounting chaos across the area, raising fears of possible famine. A study by the UN children’s agency warned that one in six children in the north is acutely malnourished.

According to UN figures, aid trucks’ access to the besieged area has fallen sharply in the past two weeks, by more than half. Overwhelmed UN and aid workers said truck intake and distribution have been paralyzed by Israel’s inability to guarantee the safety of convoys during the bombardment and ground offensive, and by security failures, with hungry Palestinians regularly overwhelming trucks to to take food with you.

The weakening of the relief operation threatens to increase the misery in the entire area Israel’s air and ground offensiveLaunched in response to the October 7 Hamas attack, it has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, wiped out entire neighborhoods and displaced more than 80% of the population of 2.3 million.

In the past two days, heavy fighting and airstrikes have occurred in areas of northern Gaza held by the Israeli army said it was mostly cleaned up from Hamas weeks ago. The army ordered the evacuation of two neighborhoods on the southern edge of Gaza City on Tuesday, an indication that militants are still putting up stiff resistance.

The north, including Gaza City, has been isolated since Israeli forces first entered the area in late October. Large parts of the city have been reduced to rubble, but several hundred thousand Palestinians remain largely cut off from aid.

They describe famine-like conditions, with families limited to one meal a day and often resorting to mixing animal and bird food with grains to bake bread.

“The situation is beyond your imagination,” said Soad Abu Hussein, a widow and mother of five children seeking shelter in a school in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Ayman Abu Awad, who lives in Zaytoun, says he eats one meal a day to save as much as possible for his four children.

“People ate everything they found, including cattle feed and rotten bread,” he said.

SLAVE IN HUNGER

The World Food Program said it was forced to suspend aid to the north due to “complete chaos and violence resulting from the breakdown of civil order.”

It said it had first suspended deliveries to the north three weeks ago after a strike hit an aid truck. An attempt was made to resume transport this week, but convoys on Sunday and Monday were met with gunfire and crowds of hungry people unpacking goods and beating up one driver.

The WFP said it is working to resume deliveries as soon as possible. It called for opening border crossings for aid directly from Israel to northern Gaza and a better reporting system for coordination with the Israeli military.

It warned of a “precipitous slide into hunger and disease,” saying: “People are already dying from hunger-related causes.”

UNICEF official Ted Chaiban said in a statement that Gaza “is about to witness an explosion of preventable child deaths, which would further exacerbate the already unbearable level of child mortality in Gaza.”

The report released Monday by the Global Nutrition Cluster, an aid partnership led by UNICEF, found that in 95% of Gaza households, adults limited their own food to ensure small children could eat, while 65% of families eat only one meal a day. .

More than 90% of children under the age of five in Gaza eat two or fewer food groups per day, known as severe food poverty, the report said. A similar percentage are affected by infectious diseases, with 70% having suffered from diarrhea in the past two weeks. More than 80% of homes do not have clean and safe water.

In Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, where most humanitarian aid arrives, the rate of acute malnutrition is 5%, compared to 15% in northern Gaza. Before the war, the rate in Gaza was less than 1%, the report said.

A December UN report found that the entire population of Gaza is in a food crisis one in four faces hunger.

DROP-IN AUXILIARY TRUCKS

Shortly after the Hamas attack on October 7, Israel blocked the access of all food, water, fuel, medicine and other supplies to Gaza. Under US pressure, it began allowing a trickle of aid trucks from Egypt at the Rafah crossing, and in December it opened a border crossing from Israel to southern Gaza, Kerem Shalom.

The trucks have become virtually the sole source of food and other necessities for the people of Gaza. But the average number of people arriving per day has fallen to 60 per day since February 9, from more than 140 per day in January, according to figures from the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination, known as OCHA.

Even at its peak, U.N. officials said the flow was not enough to sustain the population and was far below the 500 trucks a day that came in before the war.

The cause of the decline was not immediately clear. For weeks, right-wing Israeli protesters have held demonstrations to block trucks, saying the people of Gaza should not receive aid. UN agencies have also complained about this cumbersome Israeli procedures for searching trucks have slowed down the crossings.

But chaos within Gaza appears to be a major cause.

Moshe Tetro, an official at COGAT, an Israeli military agency responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said the sticking point was that the UN and other aid groups cannot accept the trucks in Gaza or distribute them to the population. He said more than 450 trucks were waiting on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing, but no UN staff had arrived to distribute them.

Eri Kaneko, a spokesperson for OCHA, said the UN and other aid groups have been unable to regularly pick up supplies at border crossings due to “the lack of security and the breakdown of law and order.” He said the Israeli military has a responsibility to facilitate distribution within Gaza, and that “the aid piling up at the border crossing is evidence of the lack of such an enabling environment.”

In a rare public criticism of Israel, said a top US envoy, David Satterfield this week that targeted killings of Gaza police commanders guarding truck convoys have made it “virtually impossible” to distribute the goods safely.

In addition to crowds of Palestinians roaming in convoys, aid workers say they are hampered by heavy fighting, strikes hitting trucks and Israel’s inability to guarantee the safety of deliveries. The UN says Israel denied access to 51% of its planned aid deliveries to northern Gaza from January 1 to February 12.

NO END IN SIGHT

The war began when Hamas-led militants rampaged against communities in southern Israel. killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking hostage of about 250 people. The militants still hold about 130 prisoners, about a quarter of whom are believed to be dead.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said it had confirmation that Hamas began delivering medicine to the hostages a month after the medicines arrived in Gaza under a deal. mediated by the Gulf State and France. The deal provides three months’ worth of medication for chronic diseases 45 of the hostagesas well as other medicines and vitamins, in exchange for medicine and humanitarian aid for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel has pledged to expand its offensive toward Rafah more than half of the area’s population of 2.3 million people have resorted to fighting elsewhere.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that the total Palestinian death toll since October 7 had risen to 29,195. The ministry does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its records, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. According to the ministry, more than 69,000 Palestinians have been injured.

Israel says it has killed more than 10,000 Palestinian militants but has provided no evidence for its count. The military blames Hamas for the high number of civilian casualties because the militant group fights in densely populated residential areas. The army says 237 of its soldiers have been killed since the ground offensive began in late October.

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Magdy reported from Cairo.

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Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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