Two trucks are going to be allowed into Gaza to meet the UN’s needs to give “minimal” support for water and sanitary systems, Reuters reported, citing an Israeli official who sought to remain anonymous.
Israeli soldiers began ground operations in Gaza in response to Hamas’s unprecedented cross-border incursion on 7 October when the militant group killed at least 1,200 people and took some 240 others hostage.
On Saturday, Israeli troops ordered the evacuation of the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, an AFP journalist at the scene reported. Israel says Hamas operates a base underneath Al-Shifa, a charge the militants deny.
Israel’s military said it found the body of a Hamas hostage in a building close to Al Shifa but it has yet to produce evidence proving its claims that the militant group’s headquarters lie in tunnels beneath the health facility.
The director of Al Shifa said patients were “screaming from thirst” as its water and oxygen supplies have run out.
Muhammad Abu Salmiya said Israeli forces had blown up the Al Shifa Hospital’s main water line. He described conditions inside the hospital as “tragic”.
Since raids began in Gaza, over two million residents of the strip have relocated to overcrowded shelters in the south unleashing a new humanitarian disaster that has attracted ire from International groups.
The UN was also forced to suspend delivery of aid to the strip last week due to the shortage of fuel, warning that there is an imminent risk of starvation without urgent water, fuel, and food supply to the region.
Israel has since agreed to let aid trucks into Gaza after inspections, allowing a small amount of fuel last week to keep UN relief operations and delivery trucks moving.
The Telecom company Paltel had previously warned of an imminent blackout of its network due to the lack of fuel. Operators said they could no longer power the phone and internet systems due to a lack of fuel.
More than 11,400 Palestinians have been killed in the war, two-thirds of them women and minors, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The count does not differentiate between civilians and militants, and Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.
Fuel shortages have also led to water treatment and sewage systems essentially shutting down raising concerns among health authorities about the spread of infectious diseases.
“An extended blackout means an extended suspension of our humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip,” UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said.
UN’s world food programme director Cindy McCain warned that food and water are “practically non-existent” with only a small fraction of the requirement making its way into Gaza.
While the amount of food and other resources being allowed is still well below what the UN says the strip needs, the problem is compounded by the lack of fuel.
“Without access to fuel, our ability to provide bread or transport food to those in need has been severely compromised, essentially bringing life in Gaza to a standstill. People are going hungry,” Samer Abdeljaber with the UN WFP said in a statement.
“There is no way to meet current hunger needs with one operational border crossing. The only hope is opening another, safe passage for humanitarian access to bring life-saving food into Gaza,” Ms McCain said.
About 120,000l (31,700 gallons) of fuel would be allowed in every 48 hours for UN trucks and for needs like desalinization of water, sewage pumping, bakeries, and hospitals while another 20,000 liters every two days would be for generators powering telecom operations, a US state department official told Reuters.
Israeli officials had previously wanted Hamas to release hostages before it eased pressure on Gaza, according to US secretary of state Antony Blinken.
But the latest decision to allow fuel into Gaza comes after a request from Washington as an attempt to soothe international voices as Israel continues its ground operations in the strip to eradicate Hamas, Reuters reported, citing an Israeli official.
However, some members of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition have expressed strong opposition to the decision to allow fuel into Gaza.
Finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, who heads one of the nationalist-religious parties in Netanyahu’s coalition said the decision is a mistake.
“It conveys weakness, it gives oxygen into the enemy,” he said.
There is also growing fear among people south of Gaza, where most of the territory’s population is now sheltering, that Israeli forces are expanding their operations beyond the northern areas.
A number of chiefs of humanitarian organisations, including those at the UN, WHO, and Unicef, have rejected calls for “safe zones” that are declared by only one side of the conflict “unless fundamental conditions are in place to ensure safety and other essential needs are met and a mechanism is in place to supervise its implementation.”
“Under the prevalent conditions, proposals to unilaterally create ‘safe zones’ in Gaza risk creating harm for civilians, including large-scale loss of life, and must be rejected,” they said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Israeli air strikes on residential blocks in south Gaza on Saturday killed at least 32 Palestinians, medics said, after Israel again warned civilians to relocate as it turns to attacking Hamas in the enclave’s south after subduing the north.
Such a move could compel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled south from the Israeli assault on Gaza City to move again, along with residents of Khan Younis, a city of more than 400,000, worsening a dire humanitarian crisis.
“We’re asking people to relocate. I know it’s not easy for many of them, but we don’t want to see civilians caught up in the crossfire,” Mark Regev, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told MSNBC.