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UN says Israel ‘systematically’ blocking access to aid in Gaza

A Palestinian girl holds a plate of rice outside her tent at a refugee camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 27, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations says Israeli forces are systematically blocking access to people in need in Gaza, complicating the task of delivering aid to the besieged Palestinian territory.

At a press briefing in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday, Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, said carrying out medical evacuations and aid deliveries in northern Gaza have become impossible.

The spokesman said humanitarian operations are becoming increasingly difficult in the south as well.

“Aid convoys have come under fire and are systematically denied access to people in need, (meaning) humanitarian workers are subject to unacceptable and preventable risk.”

The humanitarian agencies delivering aid to Gaza say even convoys cleared in advance with Israeli authorities have repeatedly been blocked or come under fire.

“Despite prior coordination for all staff members and vehicles with the Israeli side, the Israeli forces blocked the WHO-led convoy for many hours the moment it left the hospital,” the spokesman said.

Laerke pointed to an incident on Sunday, when a convoy to evacuate 24 patients from Amal Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis was blocked for seven hours and paramedics were detained.

The convoy had been jointly organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS). It had to leave another 31 patients behind at Amal, which is no longer functioning after suffering 40 attacks in the past month alone.

“The Israeli military forced patients and staff out of ambulances and stripped all paramedics of their clothes,” Laerke said.

“Three PRCS paramedics were subsequently detained, although their personal details had been shared with the Israeli forces in advance,” Laerke said. “This is not an isolated incident.”

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is increasingly deteriorating. The PRCS has suspended its work in Gaza for 48 hours because the Israeli military has failed to ensure the safety of its teams.

Laerke said the UN would continue to remind Israeli forces of an obligation, at a minimum, to facilitate “safe, smooth, and rapid passage” when alerted to aid missions.


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