Food Supplies in Southern Gaza at Risk, Says UN Official

Palestinians walk along a devastated street in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP)
Palestinians walk along a devastated street in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP)
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Food Supplies in Southern Gaza at Risk, Says UN Official

Palestinians walk along a devastated street in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP)
Palestinians walk along a devastated street in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP)

Supplies of food to southern Gaza are at risk after Israel extended its military operations and those displaced by the offensive there face a public health crisis, a senior United Nations official said on Friday.

While hunger and the risk of famine has been most acute in northern Gaza in recent months, the situation is now deteriorating in the south, said Carl Skau, deputy director of the UN World Food Program.

The main pipeline for aid earlier in the eight-month-old war was from Egypt into southern Gaza, but this was largely cut off when Israel expanded its campaign in the city of Rafah, where much of Gaza's population was sheltering, from early May.

"We had stocked up before the operation in Rafah so that we had put food into the hands of people, but that's beginning to run out and we don't have the same access that we need, that we used to have," Skau said after a two-day trip to Gaza.

When Israel advanced in Rafah, many of those who had taken refuge there were displaced again northwards and towards an evacuation zone in Al-Mawasi, an area on the coast.

"It's a displacement crisis that brings a protection catastrophe really, that a million or so people who have been pushed out of Rafah are now really crammed into a small space along the beach," said Skau.

"It's hot, the sanitation situation is just terrible. We were driving through rivers of sewage. And it's a public health crisis in the making."

Distribution of aid has been hampered by military operations, delayed Israeli authorizations and increasing lawlessness within Gaza.

Skau said that although more food was reaching northern Gaza, basic healthcare, water and sanitation was needed to "turn the curve in the north on famine completely". Israel needed to let more healthcare goods into Gaza, he said.

Israel says it puts no limit on humanitarian supplies for civilians in Gaza and has blamed the United Nations for slow or inefficient deliveries.

The war began when Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting some 250 others, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's response has left more than 37,000 Palestinians dead, according to Gaza health officials, and reduced much of the Hamas-ruled territory to ruins.

Skau said he was taken aback by the level of destruction, and said Gazans had been worn down by conflict.

"When I was there in December, they were angry, frustrated. There was tension," he said. "Now I more felt that people were tired, they were fed up. They just want this to be over with."



Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
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Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)

Israeli forces advanced deeper into some towns on the eastern side of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Thursday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US lawmakers he was actively engaged in bringing hostages home.
Fighting in recent days has centered around the eastern towns of Bani Suaila, Al-Zanna, and Al-Karara, where the army said on Wednesday it had found the bodies of five Israelis who were killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel and held in Gaza since, Reuters said.
Hamas militants took more than 250 hostages in the early morning raid into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel retaliated by vowing to eradicate Hamas in Gaza in a nine-month war that has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians, Gaza health officials say.
Several were wounded in the eastern towns during Israeli tank and aerial shelling, while an airstrike east of Khan Younis killed four people, Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli bombardment intensified in several areas in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, as tanks operated north, west and in the town center, residents and medics said. Several Palestinians were also wounded in Israeli fire earlier on Thursday.
The Israeli military said forces operating in Khan Younis killed dozens of militants and dismantled around 50 military infrastructures, while it continued activities in Rafah, killing two militants.
In a speech to the US Congress, Netanyahu said his government was actively involved in seeking the release of remaining hostages and was confident they would succeed.
DISAPPOINTING SPEECH
Hamas described the comments by Netanyahu as "pure lies" accusing him of thwarting efforts to end the war.
Netanyahu's comments also disappointed many displaced Palestinians who had hoped for a clearer signal of an imminent end to the fighting, which has laid the overcrowded enclave to waste and created a humanitarian crisis.
"It was depressing, he didn't even mention ceasefire at all, not even once," said Tamer Al-Burai, a resident of Gaza City, now displaced in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
"People awaited some surprise, a ceasefire announcement by Netanyahu as a gift to (US President Joe) Biden, but they slept with much disappointment, as Netanyahu said he was determined to pursue war," Burai told Reuters via a chat app.
Deir Al-Balah, where tanks haven't yet invaded, is currently overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, displaced from other areas of the enclave, home to 2.3 million people.
"Netanyahu spoke in a play, he spoke to clowns," said Burai.
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators, backed by the United States, to conclude a ceasefire deal, seemed to be on hold, as Israel was expected to send a delegation for more talks next week.
In northern Gaza, an Israeli air strike on a house in the Sheikh Radwan suburb killed four people, medics said, while seven Palestinians arrived at a hospital in central Gaza who had been detained by Israeli forces and released in an area close to the border.