Israel not allowing UNRWA aid into northern Gaza, agency chief says

Israeli Right-wing activists take part in a protest as they block the entrance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) office. Ilia Yefimovich/dpa
Israeli Right-wing activists take part in a protest as they block the entrance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) office. Ilia Yefimovich/dpa
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Israel is no longer allowing UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, to send aid convoys into northern Gaza where civilians are said to be on the verge of famine, according to UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini.

"UNRWA, the main lifeline for Palestine refugees, is denied from providing lifesaving assistance to northern Gaza," Lazzarini wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday.

"Despite the tragedy unfolding under our watch, the Israeli authorities informed the UN that they will no longer approve any UNRWA food convoys to the north," he continued.

"This is outrageous and makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man-made famine."

More than five months into the war between Israel and Palestinian extremist organization Hamas, the humanitarian situation in sealed-off Gaza has reached catastrophic levels, according to aid organizations. People in northern Gaza are on the brink of famine, the UN has said.

Most people from northern Gaza have fled to other parts of the coastal area amid Israeli bombardment, but some 300,000 are believed to remain, with only little aid reaching them infrequently.

Israel has rejected accusations it is hindering aid deliveries into Gaza, instead accusing aid organizations of not distributing them properly, while the groups say they are lacking proper protection.

Most recently, Israeli allegations that individual employees of the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) could have been involved in the Hamas-led attacks on October 7 led to the withdrawal of international aid funds.

Meanwhile on the ground, the Israeli military said that it had launched a new military operation in Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said troops had surrounded two hospitals amid heavy shelling.

The assault was proceeded by Israeli airstrikes on approximately 40 sites, which the Israeli military said included "military compounds, underground tunnels and additional terror infrastructure."

In the al-Amal hospital, a paramedic had been fatally wounded by gunfire and another had suffered a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Red Crescent.

Dpa is unable to independently confirm the Israeli military's statements or the reports from the Palestinian Red Crescent.

The Gaza Health Ministry says 32,226 Palestinians have now been killed and more than 74,500 others injured by Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war on October 7, when Hamas fighters and other militants killed some 1,200 people.

The figures from the ministry, controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, could not be independently verified. However, the UN says that the authority's figures have proved to be generally credible in the past.

The Israeli military separately said that one of its soldiers was killed during an operation at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the largest medical facility in the Palestinian territory, where renewed Israeli military operations have been ongoing for the past week.

The military says 252 of its soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip at the end of October.

Israeli commanders claim that dozens of Palestinian militants have been killed in the hospital area since the operation began a week ago. Dpa is unable to independently verify those statements.

Israeli troops previously entered the al-Shifa hospital in mid-November. The military said that troops discovered a tunnel complex used by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and said that militants returned to the hospital after Israeli troops withdrew.

Israel accuses Hamas of systematically misusing medical facilities for military purposes, an allegation that Hamas has denied.