Israel continues to block aid into northern Gaza; UN sending team to shattered Al-Shifa Hospital

Children walk through the streets of Rafah in southern Gaza.
© UNICEF/Eyad El Baba
Children walk through the streets of Rafah in southern Gaza.
  • UN News

More than a dozen Palestinians have been killed related to airdrops by multiple nations who are trying to deliver desperately needed aid in the face of Israel’s slow walking food shipments at border crossings into Gaza, according to news reports.

The victims reportedly either died by drowning while trying to retrieve food packages from the sea or were fatally struck by falling boxes of aid.

At the same time, reports from UN agencies on the ground in Gaza indicate a continuation of airstrikes and attacks.

This comes alongside ever louder calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for Israel to comply with both a Security Council resolution for a cessation of hostilities during Ramadan, which ends on 10 April, and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) orders last Friday, asking the country to respect its obligations as a signatory of the Genocide Convention and open border crossings to allow sufficient aid into the enclave.

Battlefields across the Strip

In its latest situation report, the specialist UN Palestine relief agency UNRWA said Israeli Security Forces (ISF) continued military operations across the Gaza Strip, resulting in further civilian casualties, displacement and destruction of houses and other civilian infrastructure.

Israeli attacks have killed more than 32,000 people in Gaza since the war began in October, according to the health ministry there, following a Hamas-led incursion into Israel that left almost 1,200 dead and more than 240 taken hostage.

Airstrikes and bombardment continued in north Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah, where UNRWA estimates a total of 1.2 million people are now living, the vast majority in formal and informal shelters, the UN agency reported.

Over 100 UNRWA schools have been directly or indirectly hit, with some being severely damaged. Many have been used as shelters for displaced families since the war began.

“No place is safe in #GazaStrip. This is a war on children. On their childhood and their future. Ceasefire now,” UNRWA posted on social media.

People carry their possessions through Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
© UNICEF/Eyad El Baba
People carry their possessions through Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Aid access impeded

Access impediments continue to severely compromise the ability of humanitarians to reach people in Gaza, UNRWA said.

According to the UN humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, since 1 March, 30 per cent of humanitarian aid missions to northern Gaza have been denied by Israeli authorities.

UNRWA is disproportionately impacted, with Israeli authorities continuing to deny the agency access to northern Gaza to deliver emergency food assistance since announcing last week that it would no longer approve these shipments.

There has been no significant change in the volume of humanitarian supplies entering Gaza or improved access to the north, UNRWA reported, noting that from 1 to 20 March.

In terms of aid shipments, there have only been 159 aid trucks entering Gaza on average per day, well below the operational target of 500 trucks needed daily, the UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at Headquarters on Monday.

UNRWA continues to provide storage and distribution capacity for other agency food and commodities, and reported that since the war broke out, 1.8 million Gazans have received flour, and nearly 600,000 people have received emergency food parcels, he said.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing desperately needed food to 1.45 million people in Gaza, but says “it’s not enough.”

“Without a ceasefire and full access, lives are at risk,” the UN agency said.

‘Attempts to sideline UNWRA must stop’

Responding to media reports that Israel had sent the UN Secretary-General a formal plan to dismantle UNRWA, the UN Spokesperson said on Monday that no senior UN official in the region has received any plan from Israel and neither has the UN chief.

“Our position on UNRWA remains unchanged, that it is a line of hope for millions of Palestinians in the region, including in Gaza,” he said. “Currently, it’s the backbone, the spine, the arms and the legs of our humanitarian operation there.”

UN Emergency Humanitarian Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths slammed any efforts to limit UNRWA’s lifesaving work, which is mandated by the UN General Assembly.

“Attempts to sideline UNRWA must stop,” he said.

UNRWA is the backbone of the humanitarian operation in Gaza. Any effort to distribute aid without them is simply doomed to fail.”

Al-Shifa Hospital in the north of Gaza lies in ruins.
© UNICEF/Sonia Silva
Al-Shifa Hospital in the north of Gaza lies in ruins.

Hospitals must be protected: Tedros

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief reported at the weekend that at least four people were killed and 17 injured after an Israeli airstrike hit Al-Aqsa Hospital in middle area of the Gaza Strip.

The “WHO team was on a humanitarian mission at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza, when a tent camp inside the hospital compound was hit by an Israeli airstrike on Sunday,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a social media post.

“WHO staff are all accounted for,” he explained, adding that the team was at the hospital assessing the needs and collecting incubators to be sent to the north of Gaza.

We again call for protection of patients, health personnel and humanitarian missions,” he urged. “The ongoing attacks and militarisation of hospitals must stop. International humanitarian law must be respected.”

He called for an immediate end to the hostilities.

“We urge parties to comply with the UN Security Council resolution and ceasefire!”

The WHO chief spoke out against the Israeli siege of Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza. The two-week-long military operation left many dead and injured, according to media reports.

"Hospitals must be respected and protected; they must not be used as battlefields," he said.

UN plans mission to Al-Shifa Hospital

The UN is looking into the two-week siege of Al-Shifa Hospital, the UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said on Monday.

“We’re planning a mission to the hospital as soon as we can get there,” he said.

The mission will help people get medical assistance and assess the state of the hospital, he explained, adding that WHO had reported that 21 patients had died during the siege.

Security Council ‘needs to do more’: France to table new draft resolution

The Security Council needs to do more to help ease the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in Gaza said France’s Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière, speaking outside the Council Chamber on Monday, following a closed door meeting.

He said the Council had to live up to its responsibilities, following last week’s resolution tabled by the E-10 elected members, demanding an “immediate ceasefire”, which passed when the United States abstained as opposed to vetoing the draft.

He said a “comprehensive” new draft resolution was being presented by France on Monday, calling for an immediate ceasefire without any time limitation and the unconditional release of all hostages. He said it would also condemn the terror attacks by Hamas on 7 October, and full humanitarian access.

Watch his full remarks here:

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