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Operators prepare humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza in a Spanish Army plane at Zaragoza Air Base earlier today. Alamy
insurmountable challenges

UN: 'Delivering aid to Gaza is like navigating a brutal obstacle course'

Nearly 20 people died trying to get to parachutes carrying aid – but airdrops are seen as the quickest way to deliver ‘life saving aid’ into the region.


THE UNITED NATIONS is drawing attention to the difficulties it is facing when attempting to deliver “life-saving” medical and humanitarian aid into Gaza as its workers are given mixed messages at checkpoints.

The UN’s Humanitarian Affairs agency yesterday described delivering aid to Gaza as “navigating a brutal obstacle course” and called for Israel to lift their restrictions on its deliveries immediately.

These calls came as reports from international news networks detailed the harrowing stories of citizens inside the conflict-torn region, where Gazans in their hundreds are growing hungry.

Hamas yesterday called on the United States to stop its airdrop deliveries of aid into the region, after nearly 20 people died trying to get to parachutes carrying aid.

Twelve people drowned trying to wade into the sea to get aid packages that went astray, according to the Hamas government and the Swiss-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.

Six people, amid the dunes and rubble on Monday, were killed in stampedes, the same sources said.

an-aircraft-airdrops-humanitarian-aid-over-the-northern-gaza-strip-as-seen-from-southern-israel-sunday-march-24-2024-ap-phototsafrir-abayov An aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid over the northern Gaza Strip this week. Alamy Alamy

The airdrops were looked at as the only manageable way to send aid into Gaza as strict restrictions from Israel and reports that aid is being deliberately blocked have slowed down the provision of much needed supplies to the population.

James Elder, a UNICEF spokesperson on a mission in Gaza has said he and his team are attempting to deliver vaccines and other medical supplies to women and children in the region.

In a video posted to his Instagram yesterday, Elder detailed that the team of United Nations aid workers have been given mixed messages at Israeli checkpoints, when attempting to move north in to Gaza.

Elder said: “We’ve waited at checkpoints for hours. We’ve been given apparently the green light. We’ve gone forward. We’ve been told to come back.

“This is the reality – day in, day out – as we try, often in vain, to get aid to those who desperately, desperately need it.”

“Truth matters. Life saving aid matters,” he added.

‘The humanitarian operation is on its knees’

Israeli forces pounded besieged Gaza today and fought Hamas around several hospitals despite a UN Security Council demand for a ceasefire.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has called on the Israeli government for drop the restrictions it has placed on the aid coming into Gaza.

“There are three key ingredients to deliver humanitarian aid; reliable and predictable supply chains; safe humanitarian access; and the ability to reach those in need wherever they are,” a video from the agency said.

“Gaza has none of these. Instead, what happened in Gaza is that it was quickly placed under siege, with three key ingredients for a major humanitarian catastrophe. These are closed crossings, no water and no electricity.”

people-inspect-damage-and-recover-items-from-their-homes-following-israeli-air-strikes-people-inspect-damage-and-recover-items-from-their-homes-following-israeli-air-strikes-on-march-19-2024-in-nusei A young boy inspects the damage to his home and recovers items following Israeli air strikes on 19 March Alamy Alamy

It added that as the bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces continued, aid agencies around the world were left with “insurmountable challenges”.

“And today, the humanitarian operation is on its knees.”

The agency’s video detailed the “brutal obstacle course” the aid has to navigate after Israel’s Government shut Ashdod port in western Israel to agencies. It first must arrive in Port Siad in Egypt, where it is taken to warehouses in Al Arish to be screened.

After the first screening, the aid is sent to the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt and Israel where Israeli officials screen the packages. The convoy is then sent to the Rafah crossing where it must wait to enter Gaza.

UN convoys have a similar tedious process, but the second screening is conducted at a different Israeli border crossing, which is much closer to Rafah.

At every checkpoint, the packages must be removed and reloaded. At every border and crossing, the aid must be removed from the Egyptian trucks and placed on Palestinian trucks.

kerem-shalom-israel-26th-mar-2024-egyptian-trucks-carrying-aid-supplies-wait-on-the-israeli-side-of-the-kerem-shalom-border-crossing-to-continue-their-journey-to-the-gaza-strip-aid-supplies-are-t Trucks carrying much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza stopped at a checkpoint at Kerem Shalom yesterday. Alamy Alamy

According to the UN’s video, each screening process can take hours to complete and it claims that Israeli soldiers often delay or deny convoys from crossing checkpoints that the Defence Forces have placed inside of Gaza.

“Famine is imminent. Over one million people are at risk including because aid is being cut off. The people of Gaza are trapped, bombed, killed, injured, displaced and starved.”

“Israel’s limits on humanitarian aid must be lifted. The war must end now,” the video concludes.

‘The situation is deeply humiliating’

Footage broadcasted by CNN yesterday and first-person accounts of the current situation in Gaza have exemplified these issues. The American news network showed hundreds of Gazans in the north of the region chasing down parachutes.

Large crowds are seen gathered around the top of the packages, each member of the group scrambling to take what they can from the delivery. Others run into the sea to chase the boxes which are drifting off.

Later, one of the young men who swam to retrieve the food is seen lying down on the beach, having drowned trying to rescue the much-needed aid.

“The situation is deeply humiliating,” said taxi driver Uday Nasser, who detailed that the moments when aid arrives can quickly become violent and fatal.

“We are risking our lives just to receive aid. What should be a humanitarian effort has turned into fights and beatings.”

“The strong take from the weaker ones. Sometimes they use knives or even shoot.”

The aid crates, which weigh around 1,000 kilogrammes, can be dangerous in themselves. Five people were killed and 10 injured by an airdrop earlier this month when parachutes malfunctioned, a Gaza medic said.

Several nations have been airdropping aid into northern Gaza, where land deliveries have effectively been blocked, including France, Jordan, the Emirates and Germany.

Despite the latest deaths, the United States insisted yesterday that it would continue the airdrops even as Hamas pleaded for them to stop, saying they were a “real danger to the lives of hungry citizens”.

26-march-2024-israel-kerem-schalom-annalena-baerbock-alliance-90the-greens-foreign-minister-stands-in-front-of-an-egyptian-truck-carrying-humanitarian-aid-during-a-visit-to-the-kerem-shalom-bo Politicians visit a screening centre where trucks have been unloaded of their aid in Kerem Shalom yesterday. Alamy Alamy

Instead it demanded that Israel allow more aid trucks to enter the war-torn territory.

Only around 150 lorries a day carrying aid are now getting into Gaza compared with at least 500 before the war, according to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Includes reporting by © AFP 2024

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