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Gazans loot warehouses as desperation rises – UN agency

Thousands of people have broken into distribution centers as humanitarian aid falls short of the needs created by war with Israel

The UN’s Palestinian refugee agency has reported mass looting of aid warehouses in Gaza, saying thousands of people have broken into distribution centers to take flour and other “basic survival items” as the ongoing Israel-Hamas war makes their situation increasingly desperate.

“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 Affairs director Thomas White said on Sunday in a statement. “People are scared, frustrated and desperate.” He added that several warehouses, including a facility in Deir al-Balah that stores aid brought in by humanitarian convoys from Egypt, were looted on Saturday.

Three weeks into a war in which more than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed amid Israeli bombing, the situation was made more dire in recent days by the nearly total loss of internet and cellular phone services. “Tensions and fear are made worse by the cuts in the phones and internet communications lines,” White said. “They feel that they are on their own, cut off from their families inside Gaza and the rest of the world.” 

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Israeli attacks reportedly escalated on Sunday, including airstrikes near the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed on Friday that Hamas terrorists use the Shifa Hospital as their main command center and have built an extensive network of tunnels and bunkers under the facility. The IDF severed Gaza’s last internet and telecommunications links on Friday and deployed tanks and other ground forces to the Palestinian enclave.

The UNRWA said the war has led to massive displacement of civilians from northern Gaza, where Israel’s attacks are primarily focused, to the south. Some families in southern Gaza have up to 50 relatives sheltering in one household.

Just over 80 trucks have crossed into the strip from Egypt since humanitarian aid began trickling in a week ago. No trucks could be brought in on Saturday because the loss of telecommunications services blocked the UNRWA from coordinating the aid convoy’s passage. Phone and internet services were restored as of Sunday morning, the agency said.

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

The UNRWA added that the current system for receiving aid trucks is “geared to fail.” White claimed that there are too few trucks, the inspection process is taking too long, and the supplies coming in don’t match the needs of aid organizations. “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 said.

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