2.2 million need food assistance as Gaza Strip risks ‘sliding into hunger hell,’ says WFP

2.2 million need food assistance as Gaza Strip risks ‘sliding into hunger hell,’ says WFP
Palestinians wait to buy bread outside a bakery, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip October 14, 2023. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 17 November 2023
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2.2 million need food assistance as Gaza Strip risks ‘sliding into hunger hell,’ says WFP

2.2 million need food assistance as Gaza Strip risks ‘sliding into hunger hell,’ says WFP
  • World Food Program says ‘collapse of food supply chains is a catastrophic turning point in an already very dire situation’
  • Lack of fuel forced the final bakery that was still operating in partnership with the UN agency to close its doors this week

NEW YORK CITY: Almost the entire population of Gaza risks “sliding into hunger hell” unless fuel deliveries are allowed to resume and there is a rapid increase in food supplies, an official from the UN’s World Food Program warned on Thursday.

It came as the UN said 2.2 million Palestinians in the territory now need food aid to survive. The WFP said that with “winter fast approaching and unsafe and overcrowded shelters that lack clean water, people are facing the immediate possibility of starvation.”

Abeer Etefa, the WFP’s senior regional communications officer for the Middle East and North Africa region, said: “The collapse of food supply chains is a catastrophic turning point in an already very dire situation. Gaza was not an easy place to live in before Oct. 7, and if the situation was better before this conflict, it’s now disastrous.”

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are growing increasingly desperate in their attempts to obtain bread and other essential food supplies, and cases of dehydration and malnutrition are rapidly increasing “by the day,” she added.

People are lucky if they have one meal a day and their options are mostly limited to canned food, said Etefa, “if it is actually available.”

Although aid trucks are “trickling into Gaza,” it is proving difficult to get the small amounts of food and water that cross the border to those in need because roads have been damaged by the war and fuel is in very short supply as a result of the Israeli blockade.

“The existing food systems in Gaza are collapsing,” Etefa said. “Food production has come to an almost complete halt. Markets have collapsed, fishermen cannot access the sea, farmers cannot reach their farms and the last bakery that the WFP has been working with has closed its doors because of the shortage of fuel.

“Shops have run out of food supplies. The bakeries are unable to operate because of the fuel and clean water shortages, or because they have sustained damage. The last remaining mill has also been hit and stopped operating.”

There were 130 bakeries in Gaza before the war. Eleven of them are known to have been been hit by airstrikes. Others closed after running out of fuel. As a result, supplies of bread, a staple food for Gazans, have dried up.

The WFP was also forced to shut down a local program that since the start of the war had been providing fresh bread for 200,000 Palestinians living in shelters.

With gas and electricity in desperately short supply, Etefa said people have been burning wood to cook or bake. Perishable food is “not really an option at all” because there is no power for refrigerators.

Local markets have shut down completely, only about 25 percent of shops in Gaza remain open and those that do have very limited stock, she added. Small quantities of food can sometimes be found but it is sold “at alarmingly inflated prices” and is of little use without fuel and gas to provide the power to cook it.

“That’s forcing people to survive on maybe one meal a day, if they are lucky to find this meal,” said Etefa. “And for the lucky ones, this meal will include maybe canned food. Some people have actually resorted to consuming raw onions, uncooked eggplant, whatever they can get their hands on.”

The trickle of humanitarian aid that is arriving in Gaza does not come close to making up for the lack of commercial food imports, she added. Of the 1,129 trucks that have entered Gaza since the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt reopened on Oct. 21, only 447 were carrying food supplies.

Before the war, more than 400 trucks a day arrived in Gaza carrying supplies essential to the survival of the population. That number has fallen to fewer than 100 a day, and the food that they carry meets only about 7 percent of the population’s daily minimum caloric needs.

Etefa called for an increase in the number of trucks carrying food to Gaza, the opening of additional border crossings, safe routes for humanitarian workers to distribute aid, and deliveries of fuel to bakeries so that they can resume production of bread.

Juliette Touma of the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said the absence of fuel to power generators is also causing a communications blackout in Gaza, as a result of which there would be no cross-border aid operation at the Rafah crossing on Friday.

“It has been almost six weeks (of) total disregard for international humanitarian law,” she said. “Today, Gaza looks like it’s been hit by an earthquake, except it’s man-made and it could have been totally avoided.

“We have just witnessed in the past week the largest displacement of Palestinians since 1948. This was an exodus, under our watch, of people being forced to flee their homes. Some were forced to relive the unlivable traumas from the past, mostly unhealed.”

Touma added that “the dignity of people has been stripped overnight. Children in the shelters are pleading for a sip of water and a piece of bread. People are telling us they must queue for two-to-three hours just to go to the toilet. They share one toilet with hundreds of others. All of this brings us back to the medieval age.”

A ceasefire is required “now, if we want to save whatever is left of our humanity. In fact it’s long overdue,” she said.

She also pleaded for fuel to be delivered “without any conditions or delays” so that humanitarian operations across the Gaza Strip can continue.

“Anything less than our minimum needs would be cruel,” said Touma. “Without it, 2 million people will be deprived of services and humanitarian assistance. The siege on Gaza must be lifted.”


Egyptian FM raises concerns over Red Sea tensions in talks with Iranian counterpart

Egyptian FM raises concerns over Red Sea tensions in talks with Iranian counterpart
Updated 34 min 51 sec ago
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Egyptian FM raises concerns over Red Sea tensions in talks with Iranian counterpart

Egyptian FM raises concerns over Red Sea tensions in talks with Iranian counterpart

DUBAI: Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, voiced concerns regarding the escalating tensions in the Red Sea, directly impacting Egypt, during discussions with his Iranian counterpart, Amir Abdolahian, Al Arabiya news channel reorted on Tuesday. 
Shoukry emphasized the unprecedented threat the tensions posed to international shipping traffic. 
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 55th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said.
The officials delved into bilateral relations between Egypt and Iran, particularly following the summit between President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and President Ebrahim Raisi in November. 
They addressed the ongoing conflict in Gaza, expressing concerns over its potential escalation.


Yemen’s Houthis say Red Sea attacks will only be reassessed if Israeli ‘aggression’ stops

Yemen’s Houthis say Red Sea attacks will only be reassessed if Israeli ‘aggression’ stops
Updated 27 February 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis say Red Sea attacks will only be reassessed if Israeli ‘aggression’ stops

Yemen’s Houthis say Red Sea attacks will only be reassessed if Israeli ‘aggression’ stops
  • Situation to be reassessed if Gaza siege is ended and humanitarian aid is free to enter

ADEN: Yemen’s Houthi spokesperson said on Tuesday that the group’s operations in the Red Sea, where its missiles and drones have been threatening international shipping, will only stop when Israeli “aggression” on Gaza ends and the siege is lifted.
Asked if the attacks on ships would seize if a ceasefire deal was reached for Gaza, Mohammed Abdulsalam said the situation would be reassessed if the siege ended and humanitarian aid was free to enter.


Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says

Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says
Updated 27 February 2024
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Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says

Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says
  • Death toll includes at least 96 deaths in the past 24 hours

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Tuesday that at least 29,878 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory during the war between militants and Israel.
The toll includes at least 96 deaths in the past 24 hours, while 70,215 people have been wounded since the conflict began on October 7, a ministry statement said.


Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base

Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base
Updated 27 February 2024
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Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base

Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base
  • The rocket fire was in response to Israel’s first strikes of the war on eastern Lebanon

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah said it launched a salvo of rockets at an Israeli air control base on Tuesday in retaliation for deadly Israeli strikes on east Lebanon.
Hamas ally Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli army since the Gaza war erupted in October, but strikes have been largely restricted to the border area.
Hezbollah said it targeted the “Meron air control base... with a large salvo of rockets from several launchers.”
It said the rocket fire was in response to Israel’s first strikes of the war on eastern Lebanon.
Israel struck Hezbollah targets near the city of Baalbek, killing two of its fighters, security sources said. The Israeli army said it targeted Hezbollah air defenses after the group downed one of its drones.
In retaliation, Hezbollah already fired 60 rockets at an Israeli base in the annexed Golah Heights on Monday.
Cross-border exchanges since October have killed at least 284 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.


Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal
  • Israel is under pressure from the US to agree on a truce

JEDDAH: A high-level Israeli delegation arrived on Monday in Qatar, where political leaders of Hamas are based, as the combatants in the Gaza war closed in on a ceasefire and hostage deal that the US says is now within reach.
The presence of both sides suggested talks were further along than at any time since a big push at the start of February, when Israel rejected a Hamas proposal as “delusional.”
In public, both sides continue to blame each other. Israel says it will agree only to a temporary pause in fighting to secure the release of hostages. Hamas says it will not free them without a permanent end to the war.
After meeting Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group had embraced mediators’ efforts to find an end to the war, and accused Israel of stalling while Gazans die under siege. “We will not allow the enemy to use negotiations as a cover for this crime,” he said.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said any ceasefire agreement would require “securing an end to the aggression, the withdrawal of the occupation, the returning of the displaced, the entry of aid, shelter equipment, and rebuilding.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready for a deal, and it was up to Hamas to drop demands he described as “outlandish” and “from another planet.”
Israel is under pressure from the US to agree on a truce to prevent a threatened assault on Rafah in southern Gaza.