UN agency sees ‘worrying’ sign ‘civil order is starting to break down’ in Gaza

A United Nations agency said Sunday in a statement that it was worried civil order was starting to break down in Gaza, where millions are facing scarce food and medicine amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), established in 1949, said thousands of people had broken into several of its warehouses and distribution centers in the southern end of the Gaza Strip, taking wheat flour, hygiene supplies and basic survival items.

“This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza,” UNRWA said in the statement.

“People are scared, frustrated and desperate. Tensions and fear are made worse by the cuts in the phones and internet communication lines,” UNRWA Director of Affairs in the Gaza Strip Thomas White said in the release published Sunday. “They feel that they are on their own, cut off from their families inside Gaza and the rest of the world.”

Israel has heavily bombarded Gaza in response to an attack on Israel on Oct. 7 by Hamas, which controls the territory. Ground operations in Gaza by Israel stepped up over the weekend.

Israel warned people in Gaza to move southward as it prepared for a ground invasion.

White said that that massive displacement of residents from the northern part of the strip has already created a large burden in local communities, noting how some families now have to house up to 50 relatives in one household.

The U.N. has struggled to bring in relief trucks for the people of Gaza amid the warfare. White said the agency wasn’t able to communicate with different parties to coordinate the passage of a convoy due to communications blackouts in the region.

“The current system of convoys is geared to fail. Very few trucks, slow processes, strict inspections, supplies that do not match the requirements of UNRWA and the other aid organizations, and mostly the ongoing ban on fuel, are all a recipe for a failed system. We call for a regular and steady flow line of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip to respond to the needs especially as tensions and frustrations grow,” White said in a statement.

It’s been three weeks since Hamas’s surprise attack against Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 people in Israel. About 200 others were taken hostage by the militant group.

In response, Israel has launched a series of airstrikes in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of more than 8,000 people, the majority of which are women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

–Updated at 1:36 p.m.

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