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'Rampant' looting, smuggling impeding aid delivery in Gaza — UNRWA

By AFP - Jun 25,2024 - Last updated at Jun 25,2024

A boy carries water Al Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on June 24, 2024, amid the ongoing Israeli war on the Palestinian territory (AFP photo)

GENEVA — The head of the United Nations agency supporting Palestinian refugees warned on Monday that a breakdown of civil order in Gaza had allowed widespread looting and smuggling and blocked aid delivery.

More than eight months of war have led to desperate humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.

"Gaza has been decimated," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told the agency's advisory body.

"We have witnessed unprecedented failures of humanity in a territory marked by decades of violence," he said, according to a written version of his address to the event in Geneva, which took place behind closed doors.

"Palestinians and Israelis have experienced terrible losses and suffered immensely."

Pointing to the dire humanitarian situation since the war erupted following Hamas fighters' October 7 attack inside Israel, he warned that Gazans were in "a living hell, a nightmare from which they cannot wake".

Desperation among Gaza's 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.

Vital supplies of food have piled up undistributed on the Palestinian side of the Karam Abu Salem crossing, a key conduit for aid to enter Gaza.

Israel, which has relentlessly attacked the besieged Palestinian territory since October, claims it has let supplies in.

UN agencies and aid groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm about severe shortages of food and other essentials in the Gaza Strip, exacerbated by overland access restrictions and the closure of the key Rafah crossing with Egypt since Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side in early May.

Lazzarini insisted on Monday that the “catastrophic levels of hunger across the Gaza Strip are the result of human action”.

“The breakdown of civil order has resulted in rampant looting and smuggling that impede the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid,” he said.

“Children are dying of malnutrition and dehydration, while food and clean water wait in trucks,” he lamented.

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza since then has killed at least 37,626 people, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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