A small convoy enters the Gaza Strip from Egypt carrying desperately needed medicine and food supplies.
The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has opened to let a small amount of desperately needed aid flow to Palestinians running short of food, medicine and water in the territory that is under an Israeli siege.
A convoy including 20 aid trucks entered the Gaza Strip on Saturday from Egypt, carrying medicine and food supplies, a statement from Palestinian group Hamas said.
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More than 200 trucks carrying roughly 3,000 tonnes of aid had been positioned near the crossing for days ready to head into Gaza.
“The relief aid convoy that is supposed to enter today includes 20 trucks that carry medicine, medical supplies, and a limited amount of food supplies [canned goods],” Hamas’s media office said earlier.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, welcomed the delivery, saying it followed “days of deep and intense negotiations with all relevant sides to make sure that aid operation into Gaza resumes as quickly as possible and with the right conditions”.
“I am confident that this delivery will be the start of a sustainable effort to provide essential supplies – including food, water, medicine and fuel – to the people of Gaza, in a safe, dependable, unconditional and unimpeded manner,” he added.
Israel has repeated that the aid shipments entering Gaza on Saturday from Egypt would not include fuel.
This is a major concern for the besieged enclave’s population and the relief agencies providing essential services, as fuel is required to pump the water supply and power generators used for operating crucial facilities such as hospitals.
Residents traditionally need to fill up tanks to access water. Without fuel, they cannot operate trucks needed to transport water or pump it. On Sunday, Gaza’s last functioning seawater desalination plant shut down due to fuel running out.
Several hospitals are currently completely out of service while others are running on very low fuel supplies and have already had to shut down major health departments.
Without fuel, thousands of patients including newborn babies in incubators are at immediate risk. Doctors say many patients, such as kidney and cancer patients, are already straddling a line between life and death.
“Fuel is absolutely critical,” Juliette Touma, communications director at UNRWA, told Al Jazeera. “Fuel needs to come in. If we are expected, and we would like to, continue to deliver assistance to people, we will need fuel.”
‘A drop in the ocean’
For two weeks, Israel has blockaded the territory and launched waves of punishing air attacks following an October 7 rampage by Hamas fighters on towns in southern Israel.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays said that although the opening of the Rafah crossing is “significant” as it might lead to more aid being sent into Gaza, experts are saying more is aid needed.
“I have to say 20 trucks, given that Gaza used to get – in terms of aid coming into Gaza before this conflict started – about 100 trucks of aid a day … so this really is a drop in the ocean,” he said.
Many in Gaza, reduced to eating one meal a day and without enough water to drink, are waiting desperately for aid. Hospital workers were also in urgent need of medical supplies and fuel for their generators as they treat thousands of people wounded in the bombings.
Cindy McCain, the executive director of the World Food Programme, told Al Jazeera that 20 trucks of aid is not enough.
“The situation inside Gaza is dire. Not only is there no food, there is no water, electricity, or fuel. And that combination is not only catastrophic but can lead to more starvation and disease as well,” she said. “We’ve got to get more trucks in.”
Israel has sealed off the territory, forcing Palestinians to ration food and drink filthy water from wells. Hospitals say they are running low on medicine and fuel for emergency generators amid a territory-wide blackout.
Hamas’s media office issued a statement on Saturday saying that expected truckloads of aid “will not change the catastrophic medical conditions in Gaza”.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
Palestinians attend a gathering outside UN offices to protest a decision by World Food Program to suspend aid of around 200,000 people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in Gaza City, May 7, 2023. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
GAZA, May 7 (Reuters) – The World Food Programme (WFP) will suspend food aid to over 200,000 Palestinians from next month due to a “severe” shortage of funds, the group’s senior official for the Palestinian territories said on Sunday.
“In light of the severe funding shortages, WFP is forced to make painful choices to stretch the limited resources,” Samer Abdeljaber, the WFP’s country director, he told Reuters by phone from Jerusalem.
“WFP would have to start suspending assistance to over 200,000 people, which is 60 percent of its current case load, from June.”
The most impacted families are in Gaza, where food insecurity and poverty are the highest, and in the West Bank.
The United Nations agency offers impoverished Palestinians both monthly vouchers with a value of $10.30 per person and food baskets. Both programs will be affected.
Gaza, which has been run by the Islamist Hamas group since 2007, is home to 2.3 million people, of which 45 percent are unemployed and 80 percent depend on international aid, according to Palestinian and U.N. records.
“WFP understands the implications of this unavoidable and hard decision on hundreds of thousands of people who also depend on food assistance for their most basic needs,” said Abdeljaber.
Citing security concerns with the enclave’s Hamas rulers, Israel has led a blockade together with Egypt that has put restrictions on the movement of people and goods for years.
The U.N. agency will continue its aid to 140,000 people in Gaza and the West Bank, said Abdeljaber, who added the suspension decision was taken to save those who are at the highest risk of not being able to afford their food.
Unless funding is received, WFP will be forced to suspend food and cash assistance entirely by August, he said.
Chanting “No to Hunger” dozens of Palestinians staged a protest outside the WFP offices in Gaza City to protest the decision.
“The voucher is life, the message they sent us equals death since there is no other source of income,” said Faraj Al-Masri, a father of two, whose family gets vouchers worth $41.20 per month.
In Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip, Jamalat El-Dabour, whose family receives $164.80 worth of vouchers per month, said they will “starve to death” as her husband was sick and unemployed.
Reporting and writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Mike Harrison
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years’ experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace accord between the two sides.
Wisconsin Union Theater
800 Langdon Street
8:00 pm (doors open at 7:30)
Dubbed the “Jon Stewart of Egypt” by The New Yorker, heart-surgeon-turned-satirist Bassem Youssef is now making waves in America for his controversial brand of comedy.
This event is co-presented with Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Performing Arts Committee and Distinguished Lecture Series. Sponsored by the UW-Madison Middle East Studies Program.
Note: this event is free for students; others require paid tickets. For more info see Bassem Yousef in Madison.
HELP US RESPOND TO GAZA’S ELECTRICITY CRISIS
A big thanks to those who have helped us get past the halfway point in our campaign to supply rechargeable household “Gaza Lights” to poor families in Rafah.
If you haven’t contributed, we can really use your help to meet our goal.
The electricity crisis in Gaza has reached unprecedented and unbearable heights, with power now reduced to 2-4 hours per day.
While only an end to the Israeli occupation and blockade can provide a lasting solution, in the meantime the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide families in Rafah with a “Gaza Lights” unit — a rechargeable household system created by a team of volunteer Gaza engineers that takes advantage of the short hours of electrical service to charge a battery, which can then power lights, fans, and phones for twelve hours.
These “Gaza Lights” are produced quickly in Gaza and distributed to needy families by MECA and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
Amal and the Sketch Engineering Team assemble Gaza Lights systems
MRSCP has committed to raise funds supply 50 of these systems; we are just over half way to our goal of $4700. We need to raise the rest by mid-November. Please help us reach this goal! Your contribution of just $11 will give one family in Rafah 3 lights for their home. $20 buys them a fan, $31 a rechargeable battery, $91 a complete system.
To contribute to this campaign, send a check made out to “MRSCP” and marked “Gaza Lights” to
P.O. Box 5214
Madison WI 53705
You can also contribute online at MECA’s site Gaza Lights for Rafah.
Your contribution to this campaign is tax-deductible; if you contribute on line, you will receive a receipt from MECA. If you send a check to MRSCP, we will provide you a receipt at the end of the year.
As always, thanks for your support.
• Gaza Lights Campaign
• As temperatures soar, desperate Gazans try any means to beat heat, Reuters, July 27, 2017
• How Israel’s 10-Year Blockade Brought Gaza to the Brink of Collapse, The Nation, July 7, 2017
The electricity shortage impacts every family in Gaza. Please support the Gaza Lights Campaign!
It’s been 10 years of living under siege in Gaza. Three years after the most brutal Israeli assault. And things keep getting worse.
Gaza now gets only about 2 hours of electricity each day.
Without electricity sewage goes untreated into the sea. Water doesn’t get pumped to high rise apartments or rural areas.
Everything has to be done in the dark — cooking, eating, caring for babies and those who are sick or old. Food rots in refrigerators. No fans cool the stifling Gaza summer. Children can’t read, and students can’t study. Candles have caused death and injury in tragic house fires. Hospital and home health equipment can’t function.
Recently a team of volunteer Gaza engineers designed a rechargeable, battery-operated system that can power lights, fans, and phones for twelve hours. While the only solution to this crisis is to end the Israeli/Egyptian blockade of Gaza and restore electrical power, in the meantime you can help people in Gaza survive.
The “Gaza Lights” systems will be produced quickly in Gaza and distributed to needy families by the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.
Your contribution of just $11 will give one family in Gaza 3 lights for their home. $20 buys them a fan, $31 a rechargeable battery, and $91 a complete Gaza Light system.
To make a contribution dedicated to Rafah, send a check to “MRSCP” with the note “Gaza Lights” to
P.O. Box 5214
Madison WI 53705
You can also contribute online at the Middle East Children’s Alliance.
What is it like to live without electricity in Gaza in the summer?
“I talked to my family in Gaza earlier this week and asked them: ‘How do you sleep at night when you don’t have electricity?’ The temperature at night there doesn’t go below 74 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity is high. My 12-year-old sister answered: ‘We don’t.’
“She explained that even if they try to sleep, open all the windows, drink a lot of water – still, they can’t breathe. If they lie down, they spend hours sweating profusely while listening to the Israeli drones’ intimidating noise outside, with nowhere to go. They prefer to stay awake at night until they can’t resist their eyes closing. Even then, they’re troubled by insomnia, and nightmares. They wake up to find themselves drowned in sweat.
“By the morning, the flaming sun limits their options. One option is to spend the day in the Capital Mall, the only mall in Gaza equipped with internet, air conditioners, private electrical generators and a place to sit down. Or they could go and visit a relative who has a big enough battery to operate a small fan while they speak. They can no longer go and sit by the sea, when the risk of catching diseases from the contaminated water is so high, though others have stopped really caring about getting sick or not. As a friend of mine told me: ‘The sea is 99% polluted, we swim in the 1% that’s left.’
“Their electricity, however, suddenly comes back on for two to three random hours at most each day, and that’s the only time you can turn on the pumps to store a little bit of undrinkable water in the tanks that will run out as soon as you take a shower. It becomes a kind of rush hour, when everyone is desperately running around, trying to cool some purchased mineral water in the freezer, recharge cellphone batteries and radios and flashlights, and sit behind a computer screen to read the news, whose headlines are repetitive and hollow.
“As soon as the electricity goes out, the people are back to the streets, sitting in the shade on the pavements. …”
— Excerpted from “My Family in Gaza Tells Me: We Can’t Breathe”, Muhammad Shehada, Haaretz, July 16, 2017
More on Gaza
• Israel implements illegal cuts to Gaza’s power supply, Charlotte Silver, The Electronic Intifada
• Gaza’s electricity crisis, Al Jazeera
• Gaza: Looming humanitarian catastrophe highlights need to lift Israel’s 10-year illegal blockade, Amnesty International