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Gazans struggle for survival; north sealed off

The development came as foreign ministers from the G7 group of countries joined international calls on Wednesday for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to protect civilians, help bring in aid and support the release of the more than 240 hostages held captive in Gaza by Hamas since 7 October.

No bakeries are functioning in the north because of a lack of fuel, water and flour and no food or bottled water has been distributed there in a week, according to UN humanitarian affairs coordination office OCHA.

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Convoy under fire

Due to the lack of medical supplies, hospitals in the north now conduct surgery without anaesthesia, UN health agency WHO said.

Adding to the dire healthcare picture, OCHA reported that a convoy of five trucks from WHO and the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), escorted by two vehicles of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) came under fire on its way to deliver lifesaving medical supplies to the Shifa and Al Quds hospitals in Gaza city on Tuesday.

Two trucks were damaged and a driver was injured, but the convoy ultimately reached Shifa hospital and made its delivery, OCHA said.

Evacuation trickle

Meanwhile, Israeli bombardments continued across the Gaza Strip while Palestinian armed groups continued launching projectiles toward Israel.

Israeli troops are reportedly inside Gaza City in pursuit of Hamas fighters responsible for the deadly 7 October attacks in southern Israel.

OCHA said that the Israeli military reiterated its evacuation orders to residents in the north and on Tuesday, for the fourth consecutive day, opened a “corridor” along a main traffic artery, giving residents a four-hour window to move southwards.

UN monitors estimate that up to 15,000 people may have used this route. OCHA stressed that “the majority, including children, elderly people and people with disabilities, arrived on foot with minimal belongings”.

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Children on life support at risk

On Tuesday the Israeli army also renewed its evacuation orders for the Rantisi hospital in Gaza City, the only paediatric facility in the north, “claiming that armed groups were using its premises and surroundings”, OCHA said.

According to Gaza’s health authorities, such an evacuation would endanger the lives of dozens of children who are either on life support, undergoing kidney dialysis or relying on respirators.

War crime warning

As many as a third of all buildings in northern Gaza have reportedly been destroyed or damaged, and a UN-appointed independent rights expert warned on Wednesday that systematic or widespread bombardment of housing, civilian objects and infrastructure are strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law, criminal law and human rights law.

Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said that carrying out hostilities “with the knowledge that they will systematically destroy and damage civilian housing and infrastructure, rendering an entire city – such as Gaza city – uninhabitable for civilians is a war crime”.

UN Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. They are not employees of the UN and do not receive a salary from the UN for their work.

Chronic water shortage

In southern Gaza, finding food and water remains challenging, OCHA said. Eleven bakeries have been hit and destroyed since 7 October and “the only operative mill in Gaza” is at a standstill due to a lack of electricity and fuel.

OCHA said that bread is provided to bakeries “intermittently” and people queue for long hours in front of the functioning bakeries, where they risk being hit by airstrikes.

Water entering from Egypt in bottles and jerry cans is “addressing only four per cent of the residents’ water needs per day”, OCHA warned, based on an allocation of three litres per person per day for all purposes, including cooking and hygiene.

Aid ‘a drop in the ocean’

On Tuesday, 81 trucks carrying food, medicines, health supplies, bottled water and hygiene products entered Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing. In total, 650 aid trucks have entered Gaza since deliveries resumed on 21 October.

OCHA recalled that prior to the start of hostilities, an average of 500 truckloads entered Gaza every working day; WHO has called the amount of aid it has been able to provide so far “a drop in the ocean” compared to the vast needs.

The UN has repeatedly called for more aid access to the enclave. On Thursday, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths will represent Secretary-General António Guterres at an international conference on humanitarian aid for Gaza’s civilians hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

More to follow…

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