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Only small part of aid reaches northern Gaza as hunger worsens

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Only a small portion of the aid managed to reach desperately hungry populations in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, where the United Nations warned that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians face a growing threat of famine after nearly five months of fighting and blockade.

Fifteen trucks were transported overnight to northern Gaza as part of a relief effort involving Palestinian businessmen, according to COGAT, the Israeli military body that regulates aid to Palestinians. But at least five of them were looted along the way, according to an Israeli official who was not authorized to comment publicly and therefore spoke on condition of anonymity.

It is unclear how many trucks reached their intended destination, the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. Izzat Aqel, a Palestinian businessman involved in the operation, said he planned to send another 30 trucks carrying food into northern Gaza on Monday evening.

Aid officials have warned that Palestinians in Gaza could be on the brink of starvation unless relief efforts are significantly scaled up, with more than 500,000 people already facing a dire lack of food. In Gaza, one in six children under the age of 2 suffers from acute malnutrition, according to the United Nations. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said visits to northern hospitals by agency officials – the first since early October – revealed serious levels of malnutrition and ” children dying of hunger.

The dire conditions drove crowds of desperate people to swarm aid trucks and contributed to a bloody scene last week, when Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians who had gathered en masse around a convoy of trucks that had entered northern Gaza. More than 100 Palestinians were killed, many of them shot, according to Palestinian health officials. The Israeli military said troops fired on members of the crowd who approached them in a threatening manner and attributed most of the deaths to a stampede around the convoy.

Following the bloodshed during the convoy, Israel faced even greater international pressure to facilitate more aid to Gaza residents, particularly in the north.

“We continue to push for more trucks and routes to get more aid to people,” President Biden wrote on social media Monday. “There is no excuse. The aid arriving in Gaza is far from enough – and nowhere near fast enough. »

On Sunday, the United States carried out airdrops of food on Gaza for the first time.

Since October, Israel has asked the population of northern Gaza, home to more than a million people, to flee the fighting and head south. But many remained, although the Israeli invasion began in northern Gaza, and some of those evacuated returned.

The area was devastated, with many buildings destroyed, and Israeli forces effectively overthrew much of the Hamas government structure, giving way to widespread chaos and anarchy.

All aid trucks entering Gaza headed south, and only a few continued north.

Despite the escalating humanitarian crisis, Israel has maintained strict restrictions on aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Israeli officials have closely monitored trucks carrying desperately needed food and relief supplies through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which humanitarian officials have called a major bottleneck. Israel says the inspections are necessary to prevent aid from reaching Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that Israel is seeking to root out of Gaza.

A day after Israeli officials said 277 trucks – an unusually high number – had been allowed into Gaza in the previous 24 hours, Juliette Touma, communications director for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said 140 aid trucks had entered Gaza via the border. Passage of Kerem Shalom on Monday.

The increase in humanitarian aid shows that “where there is a political will, there is a way,” she said, but declined to say whether that meant Israel had eased its restrictions. The increase in aid shipments is still far below what was needed to alleviate the disease and hunger that threaten many Gaza residents, she added.

U.N. officials have said the current system needs to be overhauled to mitigate the unfolding disaster. UNRWA and the World Food Program have suspended operations in northern Gaza, citing both Israeli refusal to allow convoys and their failure to protect shipments from seizure by desperate Gazans amid lawlessness .

In conversations with their Israeli counterparts, U.N. officials pushed for Israel to open a passage that would allow them to deliver aid directly to northern Gaza, avoiding the perilous southern routes, said last month to journalists Jaime McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian chief in Jerusalem. .

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