Aid flows to Gaza are increasing, but more support is needed, UN says

Under intense international scrutiny, Israel hastened the flow of aid to Gaza this month, but humanitarian groups say more is needed as severe hunger grips the enclave, particularly in the devastated north. .

Israel’s efforts, including opening new aid routes, were recognized last week by the Biden administration and international aid officials. More aid trucks appear to be arriving in Gaza, especially in the north, where experts have been warning for weeks that famine is imminent.

Arif Hussein, chief economist at the U.N. World Food Program, said the increase in aid levels was a good sign, but it was too early to say looming hunger was no longer a risk.

“This is not something that just happens for one day or one week. It has to happen every day for the foreseeable future,” Hussain said, adding that the main need is more food, water and medicine. Ta. “If we can do this, we can relieve pain and avoid starvation.”

Aid groups have long complained that only a small amount of aid is coming into the enclave, citing harsh war conditions, strict inspections and a limited number of crossing points. Israel has argued that the restrictions are necessary to keep weapons and supplies from falling into the hands of Hamas.

But under pressure from President Biden following an Israeli airstrike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, Israel announced this month that it would open more aid routes.

Since then, aid has been reaching Gaza through new routes, including a partially functioning border crossing between northern Gaza and the Israeli port city of Ashdod, about 20 miles north of the enclave.

Infrastructure work is underway to make the northern crossing permanent and open another nearby, said Shani Sasson, a spokeswoman for COGAT, an Israeli agency that oversees policy in the Palestinian territories and works with international organizations. He said there is.

Israeli and U.S. officials say about 100 trucks per day now reach the northern half of the Strip through two major intersections in the south, but for most of March, a total of 350 A truck has arrived.

Hussain said flour shipments from the World Food Program have started arriving in Ashdod, increasing the scale and efficiency of flour shipments, especially to northern Gaza. Four bakeries have reopened in Gaza City this month, a move the Israeli military calls a sign that the situation is improving.

The United Nations shared videos online showing sacks of flour piling up in a bakery warehouse and Palestinian children clapping for aid trucks.

But Pentagon officials announced Thursday that Army engineers have begun construction of a floating pier off the coast of Gaza. The maritime route is expected to open in the coming weeks and could allow relief workers to deliver up to two million meals a day.

Additionally, the Jordanian military and government have recently increased the amount of aid arriving in land convoys that travel from Jordan through the West Bank and across parts of Israel to arrive at Gaza’s southern border crossing. The Jordanian military is conducting its own inspections. Government trucks are inspected by Israel.

Still, there is debate over how much aid actually reaches Gaza, and Israel and the United Nations use different methods to track truck deliveries.

The number of trucks entering Gaza each day has doubled in recent weeks to an average of 400 a day, Sasson said. But the UN report says the increase is much smaller. In the two weeks to Thursday, the latest day for which statistics are available, an average of 189 trucks entered Gaza each day through two major intersections in the south, although the numbers have fluctuated widely. It has been found.

U.N. officials say the trucks that Israel inspects and counts often enter Gaza only half loaded, and it can take more than a day for the trucks to reach warehouses in Gaza, making daily counts difficult. It is said to have an influence.

In addition to discrepancies in aid totals, tensions remain over Israeli claims that 19 Palestinian staff at UNWRA, the United Nations agency that helps Palestinians, supported the October 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 Israelis. is increasing. On Friday, the United Nations Office of Investigation announced that the case against the official had been closed, saying Israel had not provided any evidence to support the charges against him.

In addition, four other cases against UNRWA officials were stayed because the information provided by Israel was not sufficient for the UN Internal Monitoring Service to proceed with its investigation, according to the UN.

UNRWA said the suspended case could be reopened if additional evidence is presented, and more than a dozen staff members were still under investigation.

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs The company did not respond to requests for comment on this matter.

Billions of dollars in funding for the agency, which has become a critical lifeline of aid, water and shelter for many in the Gaza Strip, following accusations that U.N. staff are involved in Hamas-led attacks. More than a dozen countries have suspended supply.

Germany, the agency’s second-largest donor after the United States, has since announced it would resume funding for UNRWA, but U.S. officials have not said whether the agency will follow suit.

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