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War on Gaza: Unrwa says Israel to block its food convoys from reaching northern Gaza

Decision comes days after a UN-backed report warned of imminent famine facing the besieged enclave
Displaced Palestinians receive food aid at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa) centre in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on 28 January 2024 (AFP)
Displaced Palestinians receive food aid at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa) centre in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on 28 January 2024 (AFP)

Israel will no longer approve food convoys to northern Gaza carried by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, the organisation's chief said on Sunday. 

Philippe Lazzarini said the decision, communicated by Israeli authorities to the UN, was "outrageous". 

"Despite the tragedy unfolding under our watch, the Israeli authorities informed the UN that they will no longer approve any Unrwa food convoys to the north," Lazzarini said on social media platform X

"This is outrageous and makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man made famine," he added.

The decision comes days after a UN-backed report warned that famine was imminent in northern Gaza, a crisis many have accused Israel of causing by using starvation as a weapon of war.

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Israeli authorities have severely restricted the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip for over five months, especially in the north. 

A UN-backed initiative found last week that the entire population of Gaza, estimated to be around 2.3 million, is enduring "acute" food insecurity, while half the population suffers from a greater level of food insecurity classified as "catastrophic".

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a multi-partner initiative, concluded that the hunger level in Gaza is the "highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity that the IPC initiative has ever classified for any given area or country".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this was the first time an entire population has been classified at severe levels of acute food insecurity. 

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According to the Palestinian health ministry, at least 27 children have died from malnutrition so far. 

Blocking aid by Unrwa, the largest humanitarian organisation in Gaza, would make "the clock tick faster towards famine", Lazzarini said, warning many more will die of hunger and dehydration. 

"This cannot happen, it would only stain our collective humanity," he said. 

The Sunday decision comes two months after Israel alleged that 12 of Unrwa's 30,000 employees were involved in Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel on 7 October. 

A string of western countries, including the USUK, Canada and Germany, suspended funding to the agency following the allegations. Some of them did so without having seen any evidence of the claims, MEE reported last month. 

Upon learning of the allegations, Unrwa dismissed 10 of the employees - two others were dead - in a process that the head of the agency admitted amounted to "reverse due process".

The agency has said that the funding suspensions, as well as Israeli calls for Unrwa's abolition, have left it at "breaking point".

A number of EU countries, Canada and Australia have since announced that they were resuming funding for the agency.

Unrwa was established in 1949 - a year after the Nakba (or catastrophe), during which 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes during the creation of Israel - to provide healthcare, education and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon

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