World Food Programme says northern Gaza aid convoy blocked

March 6, 2024 2:00 pm

[Source:BBC ]

The World Food Programme (WFP) says its first attempt in two weeks to bring food aid to northern Gaza was blocked by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The UN agency says the convoy of 14 lorries was “turned back” at a checkpoint and was later looted by crowds of “desperate people”.

The BBC has contacted the IDF for comment.

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It comes a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) said children are dying of starvation in northern Gaza.

In a statement, the WFP said efforts to “deliver desperately needed food supplies” to the area resumed on Tuesday “but were largely unsuccessful”.

The agency says the convoy was turned back by the IDF after a three-hour wait at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint.

The trucks were then rerouted and “later stopped by a large crowd of desperate people who looted the food, taking around 200 tons from the trucks”, the WFP said.

The BBC contacted the IDF for comment, which directed any questions towards Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry body tasked with co-ordinating aid access in Gaza.

On 20 February, the agency said it was suspending food deliveries to the area because its recent convoys had endured “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order”, including violent looting.

Last Thursday, more than 100 Palestinians were killed as crowds rushed to reach an aid convoy, operated by private contractors, that was being escorted by Israeli forces west of Gaza City.

Palestinian health officials said dozens were killed when Israeli forces opened fire. Israel’s military said most died from either being trampled or run over by the aid lorries. It said soldiers near the convoy had fired towards people who approached them and who they considered a threat.

Carl Skau, the WFP’s deputy executive director, told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency that the danger of such an incident happening was part of the reason the aid deliveries were put on hold two weeks ago.

“We were criticized by everyone for pausing. But we did that because we were fearing what happened two days ago; we are looking at ways to get back,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US says it airdropped 36,000 meals into northern Gaza on Tuesday in coordination with Jordan – the second such joint mission in recent days.

The UN has warned that famine in Gaza is “almost inevitable” without action, and the WHO says that children are dying of starvation in the north of the Strip.

A lack of food resulted in the deaths of 10 children and “severe levels of malnutrition”, while hospital buildings have been destroyed, the agency’s chief said on Monday.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported on Sunday that at least 15 children had died from malnutrition and dehydration at the Kamal Adwan hospital.

A sixteenth child died on Sunday at a hospital in the southern city of Rafah, the Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported on Monday.

A senior UN aid official warned last week that at least 576,000 people across the Gaza Strip – one-quarter of the population – facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity and one in six children under the age of two in the north was suffering from acute malnutrition.

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said there were “no excuses” for Israel not to allow more aid into the territory.

IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Sunday that they were facilitating aid convoys and airdrops to northern Gaza “because we want humanitarian aid to reach Gazan civilians in need”.

The Israeli military launched a large-scale air and ground campaign to destroy Hamas – which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK, US and others – after the group’s gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on 7 October and took 253 back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 30,600 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s health ministry.