One UNRWA employee lost their life and 22 others sustained injuries as a result of an attack by Israeli forces on a food distribution centre located in the eastern region of Rafah in southern Gaza. This incident occurred amidst growing demands for the establishment of land routes to facilitate the delivery of food supplies to the besieged territory.

The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The main UN aid agency in war-ravaged Gaza said an Israeli strike on Wednesday hit one of its warehouses, killing an employee, as calls intensified for land routes to bring food into the besieged territory.

“At least one UNRWA staff member was killed and another 22 were injured when Israeli forces hit a food distribution centre in the eastern part of Rafah” in southern Gaza, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said in a statement.

The agency’s chief, Philippe Lazzarini, said the “attack on one of the very few remaining UNRWA distribution centres in the Gaza Strip comes as food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine”.

Donor nations, aid agencies and charities pushed on with efforts to rush food to the impoverished territory of 2.4 million people, where more than five months of war have caused mass civilian deaths and reduced vast areas to a rubble-strewn wasteland.

Efforts to open a maritime corridor or airdrop aid over Gaza were “no alternative to aid delivery by land” as they could only provide a fraction of the needs, said a joint statement by 25 humanitarian organisations including Amnesty International and Oxfam.

A Spanish charity vessel, the Open Arms, was on its way to Gaza from Cyprus, towing a barge with 200 tonnes of aid, in a first voyage along a planned maritime corridor.

Trying an alternative land route from southern Israel, the UN World Food Programme sent an initial six aid trucks Tuesday into worst-hit northern Gaza through a gate in the security fence, the Israeli army said.

“With people in northern Gaza on the brink of famine, we need deliveries every day. We need entry points directly into the north,” the WFP said.

Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, has remained the coastal territory’s last population centre spared an Israeli ground invasion, and Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to send ground troops into the city.

The prospect of a Rafah invasion – again touted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Wednesday – has sparked global alarm because it is crowded with almost 1.5 million mostly displaced Palestinians.

‘Not enough’

Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive on Gaza have killed 31,272 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

The Gaza health ministry said earlier that four people were killed in the “bombing” of the UNRWA warehouse in Rafah, while the agency said 22 staff members were injured.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths lamented the “devastating news” of the strike, saying on social media: “How are we to maintain aid operations when our teams and supplies are constantly under threat?”

“They must be protected,” he said. “This war has to stop.”

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general, told reporters that “the Israeli army received the coordinates… of this facility”.

In Gaza City, desperate Palestinians were awaiting the arrival of the Open Arms aid boat, which the charity operating it said could take days.

Standing on the shore, resident Eid Ayub told AFP that “the aid coming by sea and dropped by air is not enough”.

“They send aid, but when this aid arrives, there’s no entity to distribute it,” he said, also complaining of “merchants” who seize supplies and then resell them.

‘Sign of powerlessness’

Gaza’s dire food shortages have killed 27 people through malnutrition and dehydration, most of them children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary general, said airdrops and sea shipments of aid “are a sign of powerlessness and weakness on the part of the international community”.

“The international community must be prepared to hold Israel to account” and demand overland access for aid, she said.

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell on Tuesday told the UN Security Council that land crossings “have been artificially closed”.

And according to Callamard, a US plan for a temporary port for aid deliveries to Gaza, which the Pentagon said would take up to 60 days to establish, shows that governments “are expecting the situation to last”.

“That is extremely worrisome. More than 30,000 people have died,” she said.

Weeks of talks involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators had aimed to bring a truce and hostage release deal before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan but missed the Monday deadline.

About half a dozen Arab and Western nations have air-dropped food parcels on parachutes into Gaza, and Morocco has sent a planeload of relief supplies via Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

Fahd al-Ghoul, a resident of Jabalia Camp in the north, said: “We have been fasting against our will for two months or more.”

“Now with Ramadan, nothing changes in our reality,” the 50-year-old added. –

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