• February 24, 2024, 10:57 am
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UN decries ‘systematic’ blocking of aid to north Gaza hospitals

News Desk
News Desk
Update: Sunday, January 21, 2024

Israel is consistently blocking humanitarian convoys into northern Gaza, making it increasingly difficult to bring desperately-needed fuel and other aid to hospitals there, the United
Nations said Friday.

After planning aid missions to the north, UN agencies said their convoys were
subjected to slow and unpredictable inspections and then a near-systematic
refusal from the Israeli side to proceed.

“Operations in the north (are) increasingly more complicated,” Andrea De
Domenico, head of the UN aid agency OCHA’s office in the occupied Palestinian
territories.

Speaking from Jerusalem to a virtual press briefing, he described how
detailed coordination was required with a network of checkpoints, and “the
Israelis have systematically, or quasi-systematically, refused” to let them
through.

In recent days, he said the agency had had three missions partially approved
out of 21 requested.

Lucia Elmi, special representative for the UN children’s agency UNICEF in the
Palestinian territories, also lamented that “we can’t get sufficient aid in”.

“The inspection process remains slow and unpredictable, and some of the
materials we desperately need remain restricted, with no clear
justification,” she said.

– ‘Inhumanity’ –

De Domenico said the Israeli military was particularly wary about allowing
fuel into the north, and especially to hospitals.

“They have been very systematic to not allow us to support hospitals, which
is something that is reaching a point of a level of inhumanity that for me is
beyond comprehension,” he said.

The UN’s World Health Organization meanwhile said that it had finally on
Thursday managed to reach Al-Shifa hospital in the north for the first time
in over two weeks, after seven failed attempts.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X, formerly Twitter, that the
mission allowed for the delivery of desperately-needed aid, including 9,300
litres of fuel.

He hailed that “the team reported that Al-Shifa, previously Gaza’s premier
hospital, has (partially) re-established services”.

The hospital, which WHO described as “a death zone” after it largely ceased
operations following raids and occupation by Israeli troops in November, now
has 60 medical staff, Tedros said.

It also has “a surgical and medical ward with 40 beds, an emergency
department, four operating theatres, basic emergency obstetric and
gynaecologic services”.

Hospitals, protected under international humanitarian law, have repeatedly
been hit by alleged Israeli strikes in Gaza since the war erupted.

The Israeli military accuses Hamas of having tunnels under hospitals and
using the medical facilities as command centres, a charge denied by the
Islamist group.

– ‘Disaster of epic proportions’ –

The war began when Hamas launched its October 7 attack, which resulted in
about 1,140 people killed in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP
tally based on official figures.

Militants also took around 250 hostages, 132 of whom Israel says remain in
Gaza, including at least 25 believed to have been killed.

Israel responded with a relentless military campaign that the health ministry
in Hamas-run Gaza says has killed more than 23,700 people, mostly women and
children.

Only 15 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are even partially functioning, most of them
in the south.

The UN has long described desperate scenes in the few barely functioning
hospitals remaining in the north, facing severe shortages of food, clean
water, medicines and fuel.

While the partial resumption of services at Al-Shifa was good news, Tedros
emphasised that it meant “the consumption of fuel is much higher, and the
need for medical supplies is increasing”.

Elmi meanwhile stressed the urgency of allowing more aid through, especially
for Gaza’s children.

“Children in Gaza are running out of time, while most of the lifesaving
humanitarian aid they desperately need remains stranded between insufficient
access corridors and protracted layers of inspections,” she said.

“Mounting needs and a constrained response is a formula for a disaster of
epic proportions.”


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