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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Aid group says it was turned away by Israeli military as desperation intensifies

Israeli soldiers in central Gaza on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. (Avishag Shaar-Yashuv/The New York Times)

By Anushka Patil

The Israeli military turned back a convoy trying to take 200 tons of food into the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, a U.N. agency said, a day after United Nations officials said children in the territory were dying of starvation.

The World Food Program was attempting its first food delivery into northern Gaza since it said Feb. 20 that it had to suspend operations in the region because of Israeli restrictions and a breakdown of civil order among hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine.

The convoy of 14 trucks waited for three hours at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint in central Gaza on Tuesday before the Israeli military turned it away, WFP said in a statement. It was rerouted and then was stopped by a “large crowd of desperate people who looted the food,” said the agency, which is part of the U.N.

The turning away of the convoy “was an operational decision by the forces on the ground,” Shimon Freedman, a spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for coordinating aid deliveries into Gaza, said Wednesday.

The WFP’s deliveries to the north had already been largely halted for three weeks before the Feb. 20 announcement over safety concerns and what it called the absence of a functional system for coordinating with the Israeli military, which has maintained tight control over aid to Gaza.

At least 20 people, most of them children in northern Gaza, have died in recent days from malnutrition and dehydration, the territory’s Health Ministry said Wednesday.

U.N. officials have called for the system for delivering aid to be overhauled, after saying for weeks that Israel was continuing to impose excessive delays at checkpoints, interfering with aid missions and outright denying access to northern Gaza as the humanitarian crisis there spiraled. On Tuesday, a group of U.N.-appointed experts said Israel had been “intentionally starving the Palestinian people in Gaza” and violating its obligations under international law, as well as measures it was ordered to take by the International Court of Justice at The Hague

“We have said before: We are alarmed to see an entire civilian population suffering such unprecedented starvation so quickly and completely,” the group said.

The World Health Organization said at least 10 of the child deaths from malnutrition or dehydration happened at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, which its teams were able to visit for the first time since early October over the weekend.

At a news conference Tuesday, the leader of the WHO’s sub-office in Gaza, Dr. Ahmed Dahir, said the team saw at least two other malnourished children at Kamal Adwan and that other patients and health care workers themselves were “barely surviving on one meal a day.”

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