Access to aid in Gaza was dire. Now, it’s worse

Access to aid in Gaza was dire. Now, it’s worse

The New York Times reports:

The flow of aid into Gaza has shrunk so much in May that humanitarian officials say their operations are at risk of shutting down, and that the threat of widespread starvation is more acute than ever.

The entry of aid trucks through Gaza’s southern crossings, where most aid has arrived since the war began, has nearly ground to a halt since Israel expanded its fighting in the southern city of Rafah. In northern Gaza, new entry points have enabled small amounts of critical aid to reach those who have been most at risk of famine for months. But that aid is insufficient to support the Gazan population, and most cannot reach the central and southern areas, where a majority of people are newly displaced by the war.

A ruling issued by the International Court of Justice on Friday appeared to order Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah, although at least some of the court’s judges said limited operations could continue despite the decision. The ruling made explicit note of the “spread of famine and starvation” in Gaza and emphasized the need for “the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance.”

Last month, Israel had pledged to increase the aid it allowed into Gaza after the killing of seven World Central Kitchen workers in an attack by Israeli forces drew international outrage. Israel’s strict controls on aid and the challenge of distributing it within the enclave had already created catastrophic levels of hunger.

Under pressure from President Biden, Israeli officials began to bring additional aid through the port of Ashdod and opened the Erez crossing in the north, which Israel had closed after the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7. In coordination with Israel, the U.S. military built a temporary pier to bring in aid by sea, a supplement to key land routes in the south.

But in early May, Israel expanded its military operation in southern Gaza after a Hamas rocket attack killed four soldiers near a crossing at Kerem Shalom. Israel closed that crossing as well as the Rafah crossing, where a majority of aid had been coming in. Nearly 300 aid trucks had crossed there in a single day just before the incursion.

“It was a record for us since the outbreak of the war,” said Georgios Petropoulos, the head of the United Nations aid office in Rafah. “We were kind of saying, ‘OK, well, maybe we’re getting to where we need to be.’ And then boom, suddenly it’s gone.” [Continue reading…]

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