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Although 62 aid trucks have entered Gaza since last weekend carrying much-needed food, water and medical supplies, none have delivered fuel — which Israel has blocked over concerns it could be stolen and used by Hamas.
As a result, aid groups have escalated their warnings, saying the lack of fuel has reached a critical point. UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides relief to Palestinians, says it could run out of fuel within a day.
“The situation is terrible and it gets worse by the hour — not even by the day — every hour, things get worse and worse for people in Gaza,” Juliette Touma, an UNRWA spokesperson, told NPR.
Touma said fuel is needed for U.N. vehicles to collect aid from the border and distribute it across Gaza. Fuel is also used to power hospitals, where doctors have warned that people will die if life-saving medical equipment is forced to go out of operation.
The lack of fuel has also disabled water pumps and restricted an already limited food supply in Gaza, the U.N. warns.
The World Health Organisation has said it has trucks on standby across the border in Egypt with medical supplies. ” WHO calls for immediate and uninterrupted access into and across Gaza, so that it’s ailing health system can be urgently revived”
Most of Gaza’s bakeries have shut down, including many of those that contract with the World Food Programme. (At least 10 bakeries have been struck and destroyed over the last week, according to the U.N.)
For those that remain intact and operational, long lines form daily, exposing people to airstrikes. The lack of electricity or fuel for generators has started to affect meat suppliers, too, who cannot refrigerate their products, according to the U.N.
In response to an UNRWA appeal for fuel on the social media site X, the Israel Defense Forces responded with a satellite image of what it described as fuel tanks located in Gaza.
“Ask Hamas if you can have some,” the agency wrote.
The Hamas supply contains “enough for many days for hospitals and water pumps to run,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an IDF spokesperson, said Thursday.
Over the last few days, Israel has increased the intensity of its attacks on Gaza, with hundreds of airstrikes each night. Overnight Thursday the The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carries out a “targeted raid” in northern Gaza using tanks. The military posted a statement online saying the incursion was carried out “in preparation for the next stages of combat”.
In an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain said she was not hopeful about the state of negotiations over allowing additional aid into Gaza.
“Nothing’s working. Nothing’s happening. Both sides are not talking,” McCain said. “They’re not dealing with the issue of people who are going to die. They’re gonna die as a result of no food, no water, no ability to support themselves.”
The reported death has approached 7,000, health officials in Gaza say.
Asked Wednesday about the reported death toll, President Biden responded that he had “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”
“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” Biden said.
“The Israelis should be incredibly careful to be sure that they’re focusing on going after the folks that are propagating this war against Israel. “It’s against their interest when that doesn’t happen,” he added.
The Palestinian agency that produces the death tolls, the Ministry of Health, is nominally operated by the Palestinian Authority, which provides funding and supplies and maintains close contact with hospitals in Gaza. Hamas governs Gaza and likely has close oversight over information Gaza health officials put out. The daily casualty counts are broadly considered to be accurate by humanitarian groups and have been cited by the State Department.
Gaza’s borders are effectively closed, limiting the ability of aid groups and journalists to access the territory in order to independently verify the numbers.
Humanitarian groups warn that the death toll could dramatically increase if Israel follows through with its threats of a ground invasion.
As the conflict nears the end of its third week, more than 200 hostages still remain in Hamas captivity. U.S. officials and hostages’ families have urged Israeli forces to delay the invasion in order to leave more time for negotiations over their release.
And hundreds of U.S. citizens are still stranded in Gaza. Massachusetts resident Abood Okal, along with his wife and their 1-year-old son, have been sharing a house in southern Rafah with dozens of others, he told NPR.
They sleep on the floor, without running water and only a couple hours a day of electricity from the home’s solar panels. On Wednesday, they ran out of milk for his son, he said.
“We feel fortunate every morning that we wake up and we have lived for another day,” Okal said. “But it’s becoming increasingly harder and harder to find hope with everything else going around us.”