UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 (APP): Under mounting international pressure, Israel began limited shipments of fuel to blockaded Gaza Saturday, but the United Nations said the supplies are only half of what is needed to provide water and power for the enclave’s 2.3 million people as the Israeli-bombed region struggles with an increasing humanitarian crisis.
“Following long weeks of delay, the Israeli Authorities approved only half of the daily minimum requirements of fuel for humanitarian operations in Gaza,” the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, said in a statement Saturday.
“This is far from enough to cover the needs for desalination plants, sewage pumps, hospitals, water pumps in shelters, aid trucks, ambulances, bakeries and communications networks to work without interruption,” he added.
“Humanitarian organizations should not be forced to make tough decisions between competing lifesaving activities,” he said.
Fuel restrictions are curtailing aid efforts, the UN agency said amid reports of fresh Israeli attacks on schools and other civilian infrastructure and rising needs among more than 1.5 million displaced Gazans. Fuel deliveries for aid operations have been largely prohibited since Oct. 7.
Almost 12,000 Gazans have been killed and thousands others wounded since the conflict began, according to the latest situation report by the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA). The lack of fuel has led to communications shutdowns, shuttered water stations, hospital closures and reduced aid deliveries across Gaza.
The situation has worsened since Israel closed all borders for aid deliveries into Gaza on 7 October and, through a deal with Egypt, allowed limited shipments two weeks later through the Rafah crossing.
On Wednesday, Israel allowed about 23,000 litres, or half a tanker truck, of fuel to be delivered to UNRWA for humanitarian purposes.
Israel authorized 120,000 litres to be delivered on Saturday, which will only cover half of daily critical needs. UNRWA said they were informed that the same amount would be delivered every two days.
Current approved fuel deliveries into Gaza are not enough, UNRWA’s chief said.
“This is far from enough to cover the needs for desalination plants, sewage pumps, hospitals, water pumps in shelters, aid trucks, ambulances, bakeries and communications networks to work without interruption,” Lazzarini said. “Fuel should not be restricted for these activities.”
Without the full amount of fuel, he said, people will have only two-thirds of their daily needs of clean drinking water.
Without adequate fuel supplies, large parts of Gaza will continue to be flooded with sewage further increasing risks of diseases, and 70 per cent of solid waste will not be removed, posing “a major health hazard”, Lazzarini said.
OCHA reported that “with no fuel, public sewage pumping stations, 60 water wells in the south, a desalination plant in the middle area, the two main sewage pumps in the south, and the Rafah wastewater treatment plant have all ceased operations in the past few days.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Friday, almost 75 per cent of the hospitals in Gaza – 25 out of 36 – were not functional due to lack of fuel, damage, attacks and insecurity. Eleven hospitals across the Strip are currently partially operational and admitting patients with extremely limited services.
Fuel shortages make it impossible to deliver lifesaving aid at a time when needs are soaring, UN agencies said.
“We are forced to handle a reduced number of aid trucks crossing daily into Rafah,” he said. “The last few days have seen a drastic reduction in these services including water availability and sewage clearance with serious consequences on people in need.”
Calling for “adequate, regular, and unconditional delivery of fuel to maintain all our critical lifesaving activities in the Gaza Strip”, he said “humanitarian aid cannot be conditional and must not be used for political or military agendas and gains”.
On Saturday morning, media reports indicated fresh attacks on schools.
Adele Khodr, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a social post that the scenes of carnage and death following attacks on Al-Fakhoura and Tal Al Zaatar schools in Gaza that killed many children and women are horrific and appalling.
“These horrible attacks should cease immediately,” she wrote. “Children, schools and shelters are not a target. Immediate ceasefire needed now!”
Echoing that call, Lazzarini reacted to reports of attacks on an UNRWA school that was sheltering thousands of displaced from northern Gaza.
“These attacks cannot become commonplace, they must stop,” he said in a social media post on X. “A humanitarian ceasefire cannot wait any longer.”
On Friday, the UN General Assembly held a meeting on the situation in Gaza, with many delegates and heads of UN agencies calling for a humanitarian ceasefire. Last week, the Security Council found unity after a month-long deadlock, calling for urgent, extended humanitarian pauses.