Deaths of Gaza children likely to ‘rapidly’ rise amid aid snarls, UN warns

(Photo: Twitter/X)
JERUSALEM — Days after an aid delivery in the Gaza Strip turned into a deadly disaster, Israel pushed ahead with another convoy bound for northern Gaza on Sunday, a Palestinian businessperson involved in the initiative said, as the United Nations warned that deaths of children and infants are likely to “rapidly increase” if food and medical supplies are not delivered immediately.اضافة اعلان

Izzat Aqel, the businessperson, said the renewed aid delivery effort Sunday came after only one of at least 16 trucks carrying supplies to the north a day earlier made it to Gaza City. The rest, he said, had been surrounded by desperate Palestinians in Gaza and emptied in the Nuseirat neighborhood in central Gaza.

COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for coordinating aid deliveries into Gaza, said on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday that 277 trucks entered Gaza, what the agency said was the highest number of trucks to enter the enclave in a single day since the start of the war. It was unclear how many of those trucks reached northern Gaza.

Delivering supplies into Gaza, especially the north, has taken on increased urgency in recent days as the UN has warned that many there are on the edge of famine.

Israeli officials have worked in recent days with multiple Gaza businesspeople to organize private aid convoys. But a convoy that arrived in Gaza City before dawn Thursday ended in devastation. More than 100 Palestinians were killed after many thousands of people massed around trucks carrying food and supplies, Gaza health officials said.

Israeli and Palestinian officials and witnesses offered sharply divergent accounts of the chaos. Witnesses described extensive shooting by Israeli forces, and doctors at Gaza hospitals said most of the casualties were from gunfire. The Israeli military said most of the victims were trampled in a crush of people trying to seize the cargo, although Israeli officials acknowledged that troops had opened fire at members of the crowd who, the army said, had approached “in a manner that endangered them.”

The arrangement between Palestinian businesspeople and the Israeli military to run convoys into Gaza came after the World Food Program and the UNRWA said they were no longer able to deliver aid to the north, citing civilian attempts to rush aid trucks, Israeli restrictions on convoys and the poor condition of roads damaged during the war. On Saturday, the United States conducted its first airdrop of aid, although US officials have said such operations cannot move supplies at the same scale as the convoys.

US VP calls for an immediate ceasefire
Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday called for an “immediate cease-fire” in Gaza, saying that Hamas should agree to the six-week pause currently on the table and that Israel should increase the flow of aid into the besieged enclave amid a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Harris’ remarks, delivered in Selma, Alabama, bolstered a recent push by the Biden administration for an agreement and came a day before she was to meet with a top Israeli Cabinet official involved in war planning, potentially increasing tensions after President Joe Biden called Israel’s response to the October 7 Hamas-led attack “over the top.”

Harris’ remarks were her most forceful to date on the Middle East conflict, which has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, and put the enclave on the brink of famine.

“People in Gaza are starving,” Harris said. “The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act.”

She added: “Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate cease-fire,” a line that drew loud applause.

Gaza’s health ministry said Sunday that 15 children have died in recent days from what it described as malnutrition and dehydration at Kamal Adwan Hospital in the north. The ministry did not provide further details about the deaths but said the hospital had run out of oxygen and fuel to power its generators and was barely operating, with very limited supplies. It added in a statement that the lives of six other children in the intensive care unit were in danger from malnutrition and dehydration.

Adele Khodr, UNICEF’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement Sunday that one in six children under two in Gaza were acutely malnourished.

“These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable, and entirely preventable,” she said of the deaths reported at Kamal Adwan.

The United Nations and aid agencies say a cease-fire is necessary for help to reach Gaza residents isolated by more than four months of fighting.

Talks toward a pause in fighting continued Sunday in Cairo, but a breakthrough did not appear imminent. Hamas sent representatives but no Israeli officials were present.

The US has been pushing for a cease-fire before Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that starts in about a week, but progress in the talks has been slow.

As a measure of the desperation in Gaza, Palestinians were still gathering over the weekend at the same spot on the coast where the deadly incident unfolded Thursday, hoping that more aid would come.

“Even after the massacre people are still going to Al-Rashid Street every day and will continue to until they secure any aid,” said Ghada Ikrayyem, 23, a resident of northern Gaza. “We expected people to be scared after what happened on Thursday, but we were surprised to see that even more people were going there now.”

The threat of famine comes as fighting continues in Gaza, especially in the south.

An Israeli strike Saturday outside a hospital in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, killed at least 11 people and injured dozens of other displaced Palestinians, including children, who were sheltering in tents nearby, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

At least two healthcare workers, including a paramedic, were among those killed after the strike near the gate of the Emirati maternity hospital, the health ministry said.

Photos taken by news agencies showed colleagues of the paramedic, whom the health ministry identified as Abdul Fattah Abu Marai, taking his body to the nearby Kuwaiti hospital, as well as injured children lying on stretchers as other children looked on and cried.

The Israeli military said later Saturday that, with help from Israel’s domestic security agency, it had carried out a “precision strike” against “Islamic Jihad terrorists” near the hospital. The military declined to respond to reports that the strike had injured children.

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