Humanitarian aid is stuck at Gaza-Egypt border as Israeli siege strains hospitals, water supply
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hospitals in Gaza faced collapse Monday as water, power and medicine neared depletion, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinians faced dwindling food supplies as Israel maintained punishing airstrikes in retaliation for last week’s deadly rampage by Hamas. Thousands of patients’ lives were at risk, UN officials said, and mediators struggled for a cease-fire to let in aid waiting at the Egyptian border.
More than a week after Israel stopped entry of essential supplies, all eyes were on the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Trucks carrying badly needed aid have waited there for days unable to pass through. Israeli airstrikes last week forced the shutdown of Rafah, Gaza’s only connection to Egypt.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Israel “has not taken a position” on allowing access. The Israeli government did not respond to a request for comment.
As Israel prepared a likely ground offensive into Gaza that would mean deadly house-to-house fighting, fears rose over the conflict spreading. Israel evacuated towns near its northern border with Lebanon. Hamas militants in Gaza continue to fire rockets into Israel.
Speaking to the Israeli Knesset on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and Hezbollah, “Don’t test us in the north. Don’t make the mistake of the past. Today, the price you will pay will be far heavier,” referring to Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, which operates out of Lebanon.
This has become the deadliest of the five Gaza wars for both sides. At least 2,778 have been killed and 9,700 wounded in Gaza, according to the Heath Ministry there. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, the vast majority civilians in Hamas’ October 7 assault. The Israeli military said Monday that at least 199 hostages were taken back in Gaza, higher than previous estimates. The military did not specify whether that number includes foreigners.
The combination of airstrikes that pulverize entire neighbourhoods, depleting supplies, and Israel’s mass evacuation order for the north of the Gaza Strip threw the tiny territory’s 2.3 million people into upheaval. More than 1 million have fled their homes, and 60 per cent of them are now in the approximately 14-kilometre-long (8 mile) area south of the evacuation zone, according to the UN.
The Israeli military says it is trying to clear away civilians for their safety ahead of a major campaign against Hamas in Gaza’s north, where it says the militants have extensive networks of tunnels and rocket launchers. Much of Hamas’ military infrastructure is in residential areas.
Those fleeing northern Gaza still faced the threat of airstrikes in the south. Before dawn Monday, a strike hit a building in the town of Rafah where three displaced families who fled Gaza City were sheltering. At least 12 people were killed and nine others remained missing, said survivors from the al-Masry, al-Akhras and Hamouda families. The strike reduced the house to a vast crater blanketed with wreckage.
More than 400,000 displaced people in the south were crowded in schools and other facilities of the UN agency for Palestinians, UNRWA. But the agency can’t provide them aid, leaving them to search for water and food. UNRWA said it has only 1 litre of water a day for each of its staff members trapped in the territory.