On Friday the UN said that it was no longer able to continue aid deliveries into Gaza as an Israeli fuel blockade of the enclave has led to a widespread communications blackout. The World Health Organization warned that the ending of aid deliveries means the “immediate possibility of starvation” for the 2.3 million people in Gaza.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced it was forced to halt aid shipments into Gaza. “The communications network in #Gaza is down because there is NO fuel,” the agency said in a statement on social media. “This makes it impossible to manage or coordinate humanitarian aid convoys.”
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini slammed Tel Aviv for causing a humanitarian crisis. “I do believe there is a deliberate attempt to strangle our operation and paralyze the UNRWA operation,” Lazzarini said on Thursday. “For weeks on end, we have pleaded, warning about the impact of the lack of fuel.”
On Thursday, Gaza’s telecommunications companies said they were out of fuel to run their network. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch issued a report saying if fuel was not allowed into Gaza, a communications blackout would occur. The group warned that “Prolonged and complete communications blackouts, like those experienced in Gaza, can provide cover for atrocities and breed impunity while further undermining humanitarian efforts and putting lives at risk.”
Israel says it agreed to allow two trucks of fuel into Gaza on Friday. However, a UNRWA official stated, “I can confirm that UNRWA did not receive any fuel [on Friday].” Even if Tel Aviv does follow through with its promised allowance of fuel to cross into Gaza, Lazzarini said it would be an insufficient amount for his agency to maintain basic operations.
Most of the fuel that Tel Aviv will allow to enter Gaza will go to the trucks that haul aid from southern Israel, where it must pass inspection, and then pass through Egypt and enter Gaza over the Rafah crossing. Some Western countries have become frustrated with Tel Aviv’s refusal to allow aid to cross directly from Israel to Gaza. Israel’s inspection regime has caused a backup and delay of aid shipments.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said civilians faced the “immediate possibility of starvation” due to the lack of food supplies. The group’s director says that there is almost no food or water in Gaza. Executive Director Cindy McCain explained that supplies of food and water are “practically non-existent in Gaza.” She noted even before the aid halted that it was “only a fraction of what is needed is arriving through the borders.”
She added, “With winter fast approaching, unsafe and overcrowded shelters, and the lack of clean water, civilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation.”
The humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza will only get worse as Israel has signaled it will push its forces into the southern half of the besieged enclave. Tel Aviv’s military operations have already displaced 1.5 million people, killed 11,000, and wounded tens of thousands of Palestinians.
As the assault’s sixth week continues, Palestinians are beginning to die because of the lack of food, water, and medical aid. UNRWA estimates around 70% of the population in Gaza is drinking salinized and contaminated water. Hospitals in Gaza report babies are dying as there is no drinking water to produce formula. Ahmad Mikhallalati, the head of plastic surgery at al-Shifa Hospital, explained that most intensive care patients who were on ventilators have now died due to lack of oxygen and fuel.