Palestine’s 4.9 million people are hurtling towards famine as humanitarian aid struggles to get to war-torn Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.
About a dozen countries, including Australia, the US and the UK, have suspended funding to the United Nation’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) after allegations that several of its staff participated in the October 7 attacks on Israel.
More than 1100 people were killed, 250 hostages taken and mass rapes reported in the devastating terror attacks by Hamas. Israel’s response has been a full-scale war that is now in its 117th day, with at least 25,000 dead.
‘Dying in fight for food’: Aid worker’s harrowing account
One Gaza City-based aid worker for Mercy Corps said he had “witnessed two people suffocating to death from the overcrowding” after a food delivery reached northern Gaza.
“[Gazans] must wait for aid trucks in a place near the tanks to find something to eat,” the aid worker, who chose to remain anonymous, said.
“Every day people go hoping to get some assistance and tanks shoot at them, resulting in casualties. Personally, from the beginning of the war until today, my family hasn’t received any kind of assistance. We now eat only once a day and say it’s enough.
“The aid trucks reaching the north are very few and because there is no one responsible for the distribution process, it’s extremely chaotic. People often intercept these trucks and directly take items from them because they know they won’t get anything otherwise.
“Recently, I went to observe the aid distribution and it was very distressing. Thousands of people were waiting by the seaside in the hope that aid trucks would enter and after waiting for hours, only two trucks entered — for thousands of hungry people. People crowded around them so intensely that I witnessed two people suffocating to death from the overcrowding.
“Most people are not getting any assistance either because they are not willing to risk going to places where there’s a high chance of being targeted or because they cannot compete with so many people trying to get aid.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it was unable to deliver food to Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza because the supplies were taken by hungry people in the streets.
“Due to delays around the checkpoint, the crowds took food being delivered, and once again it did not reach Nasser”, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X.
“This underscores the utter desperation of people in Gaza, who live in hellish conditions, including severe hunger. We continue to seek permission to deliver the fuel to the hospital.”
The de-funding of UNRWA could result in the “collapse” of the aid system in Gaza, the UN aid chief warned.
“We must not prevent an entire organisation from delivering on its mandate to serve people in desperate need,” Martin Griffiths, the UN’s undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, wrote in a joint letter with other humanitarian leaders on Tuesday calling for funding to be reinstated.
“The harrowing events that have been snowballing in Gaza since October 7 have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and on the brink of famine.
“UNRWA, as the largest humanitarian organisation in Gaza, has been providing food, shelter and protection, even as its own staff members were being displaced and killed … No other entity has the capacity to deliver the scale and breadth of assistance that 2.2 million people in Gaza urgently need.”
Hamas has said it was studying a three-phase truce proposal after peace talks took place in Paris over the weekend.
The draft truce agreement could involve a six-week pause in fighting, according to the Washington Post.
But Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the war will continue until Israel’s “absolute victory”.
Public support for Mr Netanyahu has plummeted through the war. Israeli media now reports just 23 per cent of poll respondents would like to see the leader remain in his position — his lowest poll score on record, according to Al Jazeera.