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Israel prevents UN from using Rafah crossing

May 8, 2024 at 9:30 am

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip queue outside the Rafah border crossing on the Egyptian side on March 23, 2024 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel is preventing the UN from accessing the Rafah crossing in the Gaza Strip, according to a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“We are currently not present at the Rafah crossing because the COGAT office has refused to allow us access to this area,” said Jens Laerke at a regular press conference in Geneva. Rafah is the main crossing point for humanitarian aid going into Gaza.

COGAT — the Coordinator of Government Activities in the [occupied Palestinian] Territories — is the Israeli government’s coordination office, which is run by the army.

“We have been told that there will be no crossing of individuals or goods inward or outward at the present time,” explained Laerke. “This has a huge impact on the amount of [aid] inventory we have.”

He pointed out that the UN has a “very small stock” of fuel for humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip and that it is “about enough for one day” due to the closure of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The UN official added that fuel enters through Rafah only and that this “stock is for the entire humanitarian operation in Gaza.”

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that an Israeli invasion of the city of Rafah would be “unbearable.”

On Monday, the Israeli army announced the start of a military operation in Rafah, and ordered 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate the eastern neighbourhoods of the city and head to Al-Mawasi area, in the far south-west of the Gaza Strip. The offensive has gone ahead even though Palestinian resistance movement Hamas accepted the terms of a ceasefire deal.

The Israeli army has been engaged in a brutal military offensive against the Palestinians in the occupied enclave since last October. The apartheid state has killed 35,000 Palestinians, mainly children and women, and wounded almost 80,000 others. An estimated 8,000 are missing under the rubble, presumed dead, while 1.7 million people have been displaced from their homes in the territory. Gaza has been under an Israeli-led siege since 2006.

READ: Patients and medics flee major Rafah hospital