Israel blocks aid to Gaza despite ‘desperate’ need for help – as tit-for-tat airstrikes continue

Aid continues to be blocked from entering Gaza because of security concerns, despite a desperate need for supplies with fuel due to run out on Friday.

A senior UN official has told Sky News: “The UN has been ready to deliver aid for well over a week with fuel, medical supplies and food. We’ve been told this hasn’t been possible because of security reasons.”

On Tuesday, five trucks belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) managed to enter Gaza with fuel for its own UN shelters.

However, many more vehicles remain stuck in “no-man’s land” at Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing near the Egyptian border, with rocket and mortar fire from inside Gaza slowing progress.

“We offloaded seven of 21 trucks full of food,” the UN source said. “The food from the seven trucks are still at Kerem Shalom but we are concerned they can’t survive without rotting.

“There are 57,000 displaced people in UNRWA shelters and we’re trying to provide them with as much assistance as possible. Currently fuel is set to run out on Friday.”

An estimated 800,000 people are currently without piped water and some neighbourhoods in the city of Khan Younis and the centre of the strip have had their sewage lines damaged.

The UN official said: “This means sewage on the streets…

“Access to food is a concern – most people haven’t been able to leave homes to get food, shops are depleted of produce. Food shortages are widespread in Gaza at the best of times.”

A Hamas official has told Sky News that “intensive talks” are under way to secure a ceasefire, but there appears to be no breakthrough yet with the militant group continuing to call for a “comprehensive solution” to the Gaza crisis and an end to the Israeli occupation in Jerusalem.

Israel has imposed a land, air and sea blockage on Gaza since 2007 when Hamas took control of the strip.

Hamas and its affiliates have continued to fire rockets into Israel with more than 200 fired in the 24-hour period to Thursday morning.

The Israeli military has continued its air strikes against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza with a continued focus on a network of tunnels known as “the metro” and used for the storage of weapons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to US President Joe Biden on Wednesday night for the fifth time since the crisis began.

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Despite the president saying he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire”, Mr Netanyahu said he was “determined to continue the operation in Gaza until it achieves the goal of restoring calm”.

Some 230 Palestinians have so far been killed, including 65 children and 39 women.

According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is part of the Hamas infrastructure, a further 1,710 have been injured.

The dead include Rajaa Abu al-Ouf, a psychologist, who was killed with her four children when Israeli jets destroyed her home.

Ignacio Casares, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Gaza operation, told Sky News that the level of violence is “unprecedented”.

Mr Casares said: “The Gaza Strip has not seen this level of violence in many years, I would say never. It’s unprecedented.

“The level of destruction, the level of fear and the level of destruction of infrastructure and basic services is posing a great humanitarian risk to the Gaza population.

“We are in contact with the parties to the conflict in order to facilitate safe access of the service providers to those places where urgent repairs are needed.” he said.

The foreign ministers of Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all visited Tel Aviv on Thursday to express support and solidarity with Israel.

The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, is in Qatar for talks with Hamas officials ahead of a possible ceasefire.

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