The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) says thousands of Palestinians, desperate due to three weeks of total siege and bombing, broke into several of its warehouses in the Gaza Strip, taking wheat, flour and other basic goods.
“This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege,” said Thomas White, the UNRWA chief in Gaza.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday repeated appeals to end the bloodshed and agree on a ceasefire that would end the “nightmare”.
“The situation in Gaza is growing more desperate by the hour. I regret that instead of a critically needed humanitarian pause, supported by the international community, Israel has intensified its military operations,” Guterres said.
Israel imposed a total siege – no food, water, electricity – on the Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million people in the wake of the Hamas attack in Israel. Israel has allowed limited supplies of basic necessities and medicines. Efforts are under way to get more supply of food, water, fuel and medicine in the enclave that has been under intense bombing since October 7.
UNRWA provides necessities in Gaza, and many of the displaced Palestinians are sheltering in UNRWA schools. Several hospitals have shut down and others are on the verge of closing down due to a lack of fuel.
“Supplies on the market are running out while the humanitarian aid coming into the Gaza Strip on trucks from Egypt is insufficient,” UNRWA said.
“The needs of the communities are immense, if only for basic survival, while the aid we receive is meagre and inconsistent.”
One of the warehouses pillaged is located in Deir al-Balah, where UNRWA stores supplies from the humanitarian convoys crossing into Gaza from Egypt.
“Massive displacement of people from the north of the Gaza Strip southward has placed enormous pressure on those communities, adding further burden on crumbling public services. Some families received up to 50 relatives taking shelter in one household,” White said.
White further added that, “The current system of convoys is geared to fail. Very few trucks, slow processes, strict inspections, supplies that do not match the requirements of UNRWA and the other aid organizations, and mostly the ongoing ban on fuel, are all a recipe for a failed system.”
UNRWA has said that its ability to help people in Gaza has been completely stretched by air strikes that have killed more than 50 of its staff and restricted the movement of supplies.
More than 613,000 of 1.4 million internally displaced people in Gaza are sheltering in 150 of UNRWA facilities across the blockaded territory.
But severe overcrowding, a lack of privacy and inadequate sanitation have put these schools at risk of a prolonged and severe public health crisis, adding pressure to the already overloaded healthcare system which doctors and the Ministry of Health describe as being in a state of total collapse.
The UN agency said some shelters are currently hosting 10 to 12 times more people than their capacity.