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UN: Storming of UN aid warehouses shows Gazans are desperate

October 30, 2023 at 10:49 am

Palestinians storm a UN-run aid supply center, that distributes food to displaced families following Israel’s call for more than one million residents in northern Gaza to move south for their safety, in Deir al-Balah on October 28, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. [MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images]

Relief agencies warned yesterday that civil order is starting to break down in Gaza after thousands of desperate people stormed UN-operated warehouses and other aid distribution centres in the ravaged enclave, taking wheat flour, hygiene supplies and other basic survival goods, the UN said in a statement yesterday.

The United Nations agency dealing with Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) were among the humanitarian organisations reporting the incidents, which follow a harrowing 24-hour communication blackout and persistent access challenges.

One of the warehouses that was stormed, in Deir Al-Balah, is where UNRWA stores supplies from the humanitarian convoys coming from Egypt.

WFP likewise reported that a warehouse contained 80 tonnes of mixed food commodities, mainly canned food, wheat flour and sunflower oil, all being stored there ahead of distribution to displaced families.“This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza,” said the Director of UNRWA Affairs in the Gaza Strip, Thomas White, who added: “People are scared, frustrated and desperate”.

He went on to say that the tensions and fear were made worse by the cuts in the phones and internet communication lines.

“They feel that they are on their own, cut off from their families inside Gaza and the rest of the world,” said White, who noted that massive displacement of people from the north of the Gaza Strip southward has placed enormous pressure on those communities, adding further burden on crumbling public services.

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Some families received up to 50 relatives taking shelter in one household.

“Supplies on the market are running out while the humanitarian aid coming into the Gaza Strip on trucks from Egypt is insufficient. The needs of the communities are immense, if only for basic survival, while the aid we receive is meager and inconsistent,” added White.

The UNRWA official reported that to date, just over 80 trucks of aid crossed into Gaza in one week.

“The current system of convoys is geared to fail,” said White, explaining that very few trucks, slow processes, strict inspections, supplies that do not match the requirements of UNRWA and the other aid organisations, 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,” he concluded.

Samer Abdeljaber, WFP Representative and country director in Palestine, made a similar plea: “We need a humanitarian pause to be able to reach the people in need with food, water and basic necessities safely and effectively. Much more access is urgently needed, and the trickle of supplies needs to become a flow.”

The storming of the supply warehouses in Gaza was “a sign of people losing hope and becoming more desperate by the minute. They are hungry, isolated, and have been suffering violence and immense distress for three weeks.”