Israel insists there is no hunger, humanitarian crisis in Gaza

People stand behind a short wall, holding containers to collect food

Palestinians wait to collect food in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 24 December 2023. 

Bashar Taleb APA images

Israel has denied access to more than 75 percent of planned humanitarian aid and supply missions into Gaza, according to the United Nations.

Only seven of the 29 missions – 24 percent – have been accomplished, either fully or partially, during the first two weeks of January, reported the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Wednesday.

OCHA added that two additional aid assignments were left incomplete due to “the non-viability of allocated routes” and “excessive delays” at checkpoints.

Approximately 95 percent of missions that involve the distribution of fuel to water facilities and medicine to health centers in the northern half of Gaza “have been denied access by Israeli authorities,” the UN says.

The lack of fuel “for water, sanitation and hygiene increases risks of health and environmental hazards,” OCHA reported, whereas a lack of medicine has “debilitated the functionality of the six partially-functioning hospitals” in the north.

Israel’s current prevention of humanitarian aid missions to the northern areas of Gaza “mark a spike” compared with previous months, the UN warned.

At the same time, only 98 truckloads of food, medicine and other aid entered the Gaza Strip on Wednesday through the Rafah crossing in the south and the Kerem Shalom (Karem Abu Salem) commercial crossing at the southeastern boundary with Israel, the UN added.

Before 7 October, an average of 500 trucks entered Gaza each day.

That number of trucks was the bare minimum needed for Palestinians struggling to survive under the strict blockade Israel has imposed on the coastal enclave since 2007.

Last week, directors of the World Food Program, the World Health Organization and the UN children’s fund UNICEF said in a joint statement that “a fundamental step change in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza is urgently needed” as the “risk of famine grows and more people are exposed to deadly disease outbreaks.”

Philippe Lazzarini, the director of the UN agency for Palestine refugees, stated on 13 January that “the crisis in Gaza is a man-made disaster compounded by dehumanizing language and the use of food, water and fuel as instruments of war.”

“The humanitarian operation has fast become one of the most complex and challenging in the world; largely due to cumbersome procedures for the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip and a myriad of obstacles to the safe and orderly distribution of aid, including ongoing hostilities,” Lazzarini said.

After a three-day visit to Gaza, UNICEF’s deputy executive director Ted Chaiban said on Thursday that “the situation has gone from catastrophic to near collapse.”

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the northern Gaza Strip lack access to clean water and food, he said, and not a single UNICEF convoy has been allowed to reach the area in January.

Chaiban called for an end to the “intense bombardment” – though he did not name Israel as the aggressor – and said it was “imperative that access restrictions are lifted.”

“We are trying to drip assistance through a straw to meet an ocean of need,” he said.

UNICEF, he added, “has described the Gaza Strip as the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. We have said this is a war on children. But these truths do not seem to be getting through.”

Israeli deception

Meanwhile, COGAT, Israel’s bureaucratic arm of the military occupation, continues to insist that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that it has imposed no limits on aid.

“To the best of my understanding, and according to all the analyses we have conducted, there is no hunger in Gaza, and for sure the population is not being starved,” a COGAT official, named as Col. A, recently told the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz.

The colonel, who boasted that they have not “read an in-depth UN report about hunger,” cited racist notions of Arabs for why they are running out of food.

“Don’t forget that this is an Arab, Gazan population whose DNA is to hoard, certainly when it comes to food,” the COGAT official said.

COGAT is led by Ghassan Alian, who described Palestinians on 10 October as “human beasts.”

The agency has been Israel’s primary source at the International Court of Justice in its attempts to assert its humanitarianism toward Palestinians.

Miki Zohar, Israel’s minister of culture and sports, admitted that supplies are being prevented from reaching Palestinians in the north. “The supplies don’t reach there, and rightly so,” he told Haaretz.

This week, officials from France and Qatar announced that they had brokered a deal with Israel and Hamas leadership “to deliver medicine to Israeli hostages in Gaza, as well as additional aid to Palestinians,” the Associated Press reported.

Medicine for 45 Israeli captives with chronic illnesses arrived at the Rafah crossing on Wednesday.

Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesperson for the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, stated this week that 350,000 chronically ill Palestinian patients are without their medication across the Gaza Strip.

He called on international institutions to provide medications for them immediately.

“The Israeli occupation still controls the volume, quality and course of medical aid with the aim of keeping the health sector in a state of continuous collapse,” al-Qedra stated on Thursday.

After cataloging the medical aid that has entered the Gaza Strip, al-Qedra explained that “what can be used, unfortunately, is less than 30 percent. This means that the largest amount of aid does not meet our required needs.”




"...Chaiban called for an end to the “intense bombardment” – though he did not name Israel as the aggressor – and said it was “imperative that access restrictions are lifted.”..."

This is an important step to name the names, especially from this position. The israelian regime will not stop the massaker by war and starvation in Palestina. It terrorize their opponents with murder and persecution all over the world.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).