UN says its Gaza aid humanitarian program in ‘tatters’ amid fighting


AMMAN, Jordan
The United Nations said its humanitarian operation in the densely populated Gaza Strip has largely fallen apart amid the ferocious military campaign being conducted by Israel to destroy the militant Hamas network.
The Israel Defense Forces on Friday reported a new round of battles in the Gaza Strip, concentrated in the south’s largest city, Khan Younis, hitting 450 targets with a combination of ground, naval and air assets. It described close quarters fighting.
Hamas, in turn, said it foiled an attempt by Israeli special forces to rescue a hostage that resulted in the man’s death. The IDF declined to comment on the announcement and The Post could not verify the details of either side’s battlefield updates.
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The intense fighting in the south as well as parts of the north have disrupted communications and travel across the Gaza Strip and made the provision of aid largely impossible, according to Martin Griffiths, the U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs.
“We do not have a humanitarian operation in southern Gaza that can be called by that name anymore,” he said late Thursday in Geneva, emphasizing that despite Israeli assurances, there were no safe zones which were needed “to protect civilians and thus to provide aid to them. But without places of safety, that plan is in tatters.”
He said the provision of aid had become opportunistic, with agencies doing it where they could but not necessarily reaching those most in need: “Its erratic, it’s undependable, and frankly, it’s not sustainable.”
The deepening plight of civilians, who are struggling with inadequate food, water and the spread of diseases across the Gaza Strip, has brought a response from the United States, which has been Israel’s most steadfast ally in its mission to destroy Hamas after it launched a brutal attack on Oct. 7, killing at least 1,200 people and taking around 240 hostages.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted Thursday that a “gap” remains between Israel’s stated intent of protecting civilians in the Gaza Strip and what has unfolded over the past week as fighting has resumed.
In earlier visits, Blinken had pushed for a more targeted campaign against Hamas in the south of the Gaza Strip than what had already unfolded in the north, where large sections of Gaza City and elsewhere have been turned into rubble.
Griffiths, for his part, called the campaign in Khan Younis in the south “a repeat of the assault in northern Gaza.”
Israel has pushed back against the criticism and insisted that it has put “in place measures unprecedented in the history of warfare to keep civilians safe,” according to Eylon Levy, spokesman for the prime minister’s office, on Friday. “We believe we are setting the highest possible standards for the minimization of civilian casualties in counterterrorism operations in urban areas.”
Col. Elad Goren, head of the civil department for the Israeli agency overseeing the Palestinian territories, said Thursday that the crossing would be opened “in the next few days” to aid inspection of incoming aid, while emphasizing that the amount of aid coming is well below Israel’s capacity to inspect it.
“Fewer trucks are going through every day, because of limitations on the part of international aid agencies in Gaza,” Levy insisted. He said there were “no limitations on Israel’s side in terms of the provision of food, water, medicine and shelters to the people of Gaza, on the contrary we have we have surplus capacity of inspections.”
Griffith, however, has emphasized that the obstacles to distributing aid include the constant fighting, the inability of employees to move around Gaza and trucks being blocked.
Ahmed al-Ramli, a father of seven who fled from Gaza City in the north to the central region, said finding food was a constant struggle. “We are on a mission to search for food and water every day; it has become a daily routine,” he told The Post by phone from Deir al-Balah.
“What we find in the market today will not be available tomorrow, and we cannot store a lot of food, there is no electricity,” he said, describing a haphazard distribution of flour by U.N. agencies that is rarely enough. The area is cut off from the north and south by fighting and difficult for aid agencies to reach. He said they were subsisting on one meal a day.
In the Nuseirat camp in Khan Younis, Ayman Jameel also described life as harsh even aside from the constant fighting, with prices for food soaring and the lack of cooking gas meaning that people are burning anything they can to cook with.
“We did not receive any aid from anyone. Previously, people sold some of the food items they received as aid, but today no one sells anything,” he said.