Because they are almost out of fuel, UN relief organizations say they have started to drastically scale back their operations in the Gaza Strip.
The water supply in the south, where hundreds of thousands of people are seeking refuge from Israeli strikes, is being kept up with small amounts of fuel that have been recovered from preexisting reserves.
But on Thursday, they will run out.
According to the agencies, they are providing less assistance to overburdened hospitals and bakeries that feed the displaced.
UN agency for Palestinian refugees Juliette Touma told the BBC that “what we are seeing in the Gaza Strip is unprecedented.”
“There are two million strangling victims. With extremely little outside assistance, Gaza is being choked.”
In retribution for a cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7 that resulted in at least 1,400 deaths and 224 hostages, Israel launched a bombing campaign in Gaza, turned off the majority of the country’s water and electricity supplies, and suspended the import of food, fuel, and other necessities.
Since then, 7,000 people have died in Gaza, according to the health ministry run by Hamas. The ministry also claims that the health system is in complete collapse, with one-third of hospitals non-operational and the remaining hospitals limited to emergency care.
Since Saturday, at least 74 trucks containing food, water, and medical supplies have crossed the border from Egypt through the Rafah crossing, which Ms. Touma referred to as “a drop in the ocean of overwhelming needs”. Before the war, about 500 lorries were permitted into Gaza each day.
Fuel deliveries are refused by Israel, the US, the UK, and other countries on the grounds that fuel might be used by Hamas, an organization it considers to be a terrorist organization, for military purposes.
However, Ms. Touma stated that in order for Unrwa to keep providing a lifeline to the 629,000 displaced people seeking sanctuary within its facilities, it was imperative that it obtain fuel. The Israeli military ordered most people to leave their homes in the northern part of Gaza so they could protect themselves.
“As the biggest humanitarian organization, we are about to cease operations. It is forbidden for us to carry out the mission that the United Nations General Assembly gave us. “All we’re requesting is the ability to perform our duties,” she continued.
Sheltering at a UN building in the southern city of Rafah is Dr. Abdelkader Hammad, a surgeon from the UK who arrived in Gaza the day before the war started to perform transplants.
“Day by day, the situation on the ground is getting worse,” he said to the BBC.
Because of the shortages, people are fighting for food and water. Everything that is currently in the stores is running low. People are waiting in long lines for bread from bakeries that are still open for business.”
In addition, he voiced concern about the state of the hospitals where he typically conducts surgeries, stating that his hospital colleagues were speaking of a “medical disaster.”
“There are many wounded people in theaters. They are unable to handle the influx of so many [wounded] people, so they have to make very tough choices about who to treat,” he stated. Their supply of medical supplies is running low. There is not much fuel left.
During a video briefing on X, the former Twitter platform, Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus stated, “We don’t want hospitals, or the whole of Gaza, to run out of fuel.”
However, he suggested that Unrwa approach Hamas about requesting the release of a portion of the hundreds of thousands of liters of fuel that the military believes are being kept in twelve tanks close to the Egyptian border.
“There is enough for many days for hospitals and water pumps to run,” he stated. “The priorities are distinct, that’s all. Hamas would rather control all of the fuel needed for its military operations, depriving civilians of it.”
When asked about the accusation, Lynn Hastings, the UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator, told the BBC, “We don’t have any information about other fuel being available for Hamas to access.”
“I am aware—and quite rightly—that the Israelis are concerned about that. We are attempting to resolve this with the Israelis in order to be able to supply enough fuel for the relief efforts.”
Ms. Hastings issued a warning, stating that Gaza’s hospitals would be unable to provide care for roughly 1,000 patients undergoing kidney dialysis, 130 premature babies in incubators, and critically ill patients on ventilators if they ran out of fuel for their backup generators.
She also said that Gaza’s pumping stations and desalination plants would shut down.
“There is very, very little clean drinking water available now, which means people are resorting to drinking dirty or salinated water, or both.”
Additionally, it indicates that the sewage system is clogged because there isn’t any electricity to force it into the ocean. We anticipate that sewage will soon overflow into the streets.”
In a different statement, Ms. Hastings expressed her dissatisfaction over the Israeli military’s persistent warnings to evacuate Gaza City residents who had nowhere to go or were unable to move.
“When the evacuation routes are bombed, when people north as well as south are caught up in hostilities, when the essentials for survival are lacking, and when there are no assurances for return, people are left with nothing but impossible choices,” she stated.
The Israeli military charged Hamas in a statement of stopping civilians from fleeing south and using them as human shields.
“As we have seen in the past, they use a variety of methods including roadblocks,” it continued.