Israel making aid distribution in Gaza very difficult

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that the Israeli offensive is creating massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza.

Many people are measuring the effectiveness of the humanitarian operation in Gaza based on the number of trucks allowed to unload aid across the Egyptian-Gaza border. This is a mistake, said Guterres. “The real problem is that the way Israel is conducting this offensive is creating massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza,” he told reporters. An effective aid operation in Gaza requires security, staff who can work in safety, logistical capacity, and the resumption of commercial activity.

These four elements do not exist, he said. Security for aid delivery is absent. The intense Israeli bombardment and active combat in densely populated urban areas throughout Gaza threaten the lives of civilians and humanitarian aid workers alike. The United Nations waited 71 days for Israel finally to allow aid to enter Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

The crossing was then hit while aid trucks were in the area, he said. The humanitarian operation requires staff who can live and work in safety. Some 136 UN staff members in Gaza have been killed in 75 days — something unprecedented in the history of the United Nations. Nowhere is safe in Gaza, said Guterres.

Every truck that arrives at Kerem Shalom and Rafah border crossings must be unloaded, and its cargo re-loaded for distribution across Gaza. The United Nations has a limited and insufficient number of trucks available for this. Many of the UN vehicles and trucks were destroyed or left behind following forced, hurried evacuation from northern Gaza.

But the Israeli authorities have not allowed any additional trucks to operate in Gaza. This is massively hampering the aid operation, he said. Delivering in the north is extremely dangerous due to active conflict, unexploded ordnance, and heavily damaged roads. Everywhere, frequent communications blackouts make it virtually impossible to coordinate the distribution of aid, and to let people know how to access it, he added.

The resumption of commercial activities is essential. Shelves are empty, wallets are empty, stomachs are empty. Just one bakery is operating in the whole of Gaza, said Guterres. “I urge the Israeli authorities to lift restrictions on commercial activity immediately. We are ready to scale up our cash grant support to vulnerable families — the most effective form of humanitarian aid. But in Gaza, there is very little to buy.”

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