WFP warns of ‘apocalyptic’ scenes in southern Gaza

ROME: Daily life in parts of southern Gaza has become “apocalyptic” since Israel moved into the town of Rafah, although conditions in the north are improving, the UN food agency said on Friday.
“The exodus we’ve witnessed over the past 20 days from Rafah has been an extraordinary and horrifying experience for many, many people,” Matthew Hollingworth, World Food Program (WFP) director for the Palestinian territories.
They fled the fighting to areas where there was not enough water, medical care or fuel, where food was scarce, telecommunications stopped and there was not enough space to flush toilets, Hollingworth said in an online briefing.
The public health situation is “above crisis level”, he said, adding: “The sounds and smells of daily life are terrifying and apocalyptic.”
People “sleep to the sounds of war … and wake up to the same sounds,” he said.
The World Food Program has been able to provide “decreasing amounts of aid” with all its bakeries in Rafah closed for lack of fuel and supplies, he said.
From May 7 – when Israeli tanks and troops entered east of Rafah – to May 20, “not a single WFP truck crossed the southern corridors from Egypt,” Hollingworth said.
WFP also lost access to its main warehouse in southern Gaza because it was in an evacuation zone where 2,700 tonnes of food had been looted or destroyed in the fighting.
Hollingworth said WFP is serving about 27,000 people with hot meals in Rafah – “but it’s not enough.”
In the central areas of Gaza, where many people have fled, WFP provides about 400,000 hot meals a day and keeps six bakeries running.
Commercial food is also coming, he said, but many people don’t have money, and some even resort to exchanging their identity cards – which they need to apply for aid.
Hollingworth said aid trucks from Egypt had begun entering the Gaza Strip through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing.
“We started receiving aid from May 20,” he said, although he noted that the security situation was still slowing supplies.
“This must turn into a flood of aid if we are to ensure that the most acute forms of hunger do not become more common,” he said.
By contrast, in the north of the Palestinian territory, where UN agencies warned of imminent famine in March, Hollingworth said the situation was improving.
With the opening of the crossings, around 12,000 tons of interdepartmental aid, mostly food, were delivered from May 1.
“There has been a big change in terms of food availability,” he said, although problems with health care, clean water supply and sanitation remain.
The United States built a temporary pier in Gaza, but it was damaged by bad weather, cutting off deliveries.
In the two weeks it was open, about 1,000 tons of interagency aid moved through the pier, Hollingworth said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government was doing everything to avoid starvation in Gaza and pointed to a study that said the territory’s calorie consumption was 3,200 a day, which was more than enough.
“I haven’t seen anyone in Gaza, not even aid workers, living on protein bars, eating 3,000 calories or more,” Hollingworth said.
The war in Gaza was triggered by an October 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel that killed 1,189 people, mostly civilians, AFP reported, based on Israeli official figures.
The extremists also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom are still in Gaza, including 37 the military says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 36,284 people, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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