Israel, UN at odds over worsening Gaza humanitarian crisis

The Foreign Ministry claimed over 1,000 truckloads of UN aid are being held up on the Gaza side of Israeli cargo crossings and not being distributed.

Tensions escalated between Israeli and United Nations officials over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the ability of aid groups to operate safely in the Palestinian enclave.

In a tense meeting, UN aid coordinator Sigrid Kaag warned Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz that chaos and lawlessness are increasingly gripping Gaza, to the point where they may soon be unable to continue assisting the territory’s 2 million residents.

According to Israeli reports, Kaag told Katz that crime is spreading in Gaza, and if conditions do not improve, the UN will be forced to halt its operations there over security concerns for its staff. She cautioned that Israel could soon be left to deal with Gaza’s growing humanitarian crisis alone.

Katz’s office confirmed the contentious talks with Kaag, who oversees UN humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

The disagreement reflects deepening concerns over the worsening quality of life in Gaza under Hamas’ militant rule. The territory has been under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power in 2007, with both countries citing threats from the Islamic group.

The Foreign Ministry claimed over 1,000 truckloads of UN aid are being held up on the Gaza side of Israeli cargo crossings and not being distributed. But Kaag said UN workers fear for their safety from rampant gang violence and potential backlash from Gaza’s impoverished population if supplies do not reach them.

She pushed Israel to ease its restrictions and allow dual-use goods that could potentially have military capabilities into Gaza. But Katz reiterated Israel’s policy of severely limiting such items from entering to prevent Hamas from diverting materials to make weapons.

The bitter meeting underscored the extreme challenges facing international groups working in Gaza, which has been brought to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe from years of conflict. Israel says it is responsible for facilitating aid, not securing it.

Gaza’s economy has collapsed, with poverty and unemployment levels around 50%. A series of bloody Israeli offensives against Hamas combined with the blockade has left Gaza’s basic infrastructure in disrepair and its hospitals lacking in essential supplies.

The impasse threatens to inflame tensions surrounding Gaza, which has experienced numerous rounds of cross-border violence with Israel in recent years. Both Israel and Hamas have voiced little appetite for escalating hostilities further.