UNRWA chief says hunger in Gaza is ‘man-made’

The head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency said on Monday the hunger in the Gaza Strip was “man-made.”

With the war between Israel and Hamas now in its sixth month, the UN has warned that at least 576,000 people in Gaza – one quarter of the population – are on the brink of famine and global pressure has been growing on Israel to allow more access for aid.

“We are engaged in a race against the clock to try to reverse the impact of the spreading hunger and the looming famine in the Gaza Strip,” United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) chief Philippe Lazzarini said during a press conference in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

The crisis could be resolved and reversed through proper political will and Gaza could be “flooded” with food through the land crossings, he added.

The UN agency chief also said more than 150 of UNRWA’s facilities have been hit, damaged or completely destroyed during Israel’s air and land campaign to destroy Hamas, the militant group that rules the territory from which it launched deadly attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

“We also know that a number of staff that have been arrested have gone through very tough investigation, ill-treatment and humiliation,” Lazzarini said.

The UN official said his entry request to Gaza’s border town of Rafah has been declined: “I intended to go to Rafah today, but I have been informed an hour ago that my entry into Rafah is declined.”

The rejection was not the responsibility of the Egyptian government, Egypt’s foreign minister Shoukry said.

“You were declined by the Israeli government, refused the entry which is an unprecedented move for representative at this high position,” he said.

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