Israel will no longer approve Unrwa food aid to northern Gaza, agency says | Israel

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, said on Sunday that Israel had definitively barred it from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza, where the threat of famine is highest.

“Despite the tragedy unfolding under our watch, the Israeli Authorities informed the UN that they will no longer approve any @Unrwa food convoys to the north,” Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the agency, said on X.

“This is outrageous & makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man made famine.”

Israel did not immediately respond on Sunday to AFP’s request for comment about Lazzarini’s statement. The Unrwa spokesperson, Juliette Touma, said the decision had been relayed in a meeting with Israeli military officials on Sunday. It followed two denials in writing for convoy deliveries to the north last week.

No reason for the decision was given, Touma said.

Gaza faces dire humanitarian conditions as a result of Israel’s war against Hamas that began nearly six months ago, triggered by Hamas’s deadly attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

Last week a UN-backed food security assessment warned that famine was projected to hit the north of Gaza by May unless there was urgent intervention. Unrwa has not been able to deliver food to the north since 29 January, Touma said.

“The latest decision is another nail in the coffin” for efforts to get desperately needed aid to Gazans reeling from war, Touma said.

Martin Griffiths, head of the UN humanitarian coordination office, said on X on Sunday that Unrwa was the “beating heart of the humanitarian response in Gaza”.

He added: “The decision to block its food convoys to the north only pushes thousands closer to famine. It must be revoked.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said that blocking Unrwa aid deliveries was “denying starving people the ability to survive”.

Earlier on Sunday, the UN’s secretary general, António Guterres, urged an end to the “non-stop nightmare” endured by Gaza’s 2.4 million people in the territory’s worst-ever war.

Israel has accused Unrwa staff members of participating in the 7 October attack and called the agency “a front for Hamas”.

Touma said Israeli authorities on Sunday also rejected a UN request to send a team to Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, where fighting has flared for almost a week, “to evacuate people who are injured”.

The 7 October attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

Israel’s military campaign to eliminate Hamas has killed at least 32,226 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

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