Oct 25, 2023 - World

Aid groups in Gaza plead for fuel as humanitarian crisis reaches "unprecedented point"

People mourn at the morgue of Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza. Photo: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images

The UN and other aid groups say they're in desperate need of fuel in order to keep operations running in the Gaza Strip.

The big picture: The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached an "unprecedented point," as hospitals shut down, food stocks deplete and people resort to unsafe drinking water, the UN aid office warned on Wednesday.

  • A limited number of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance have crossed from Egypt into Gaza, but it's only a small fraction of what is needed to meet Gaza's growing needs, aid groups say.
  • It also doesn't include fuel used to run generators that are powering hospitals, shelters and other buildings.
  • The UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, warned early Wednesday that the next 24 hours are critical. "If fuel is not received into Gaza, UNRWA will be forced to significantly reduce and in some cases bring its humanitarian operations across the Gaza Strip to a halt," the group said.

What is happening: Since the Hamas terrorist attack, Gaza has been under intensifying Israeli air raids and a "complete siege" that has plunged much of the Strip into darkness and blocked the passage of fuel and most other supplies.

  • The siege has devastated the fragile enclave, which was already facing dire humanitarian conditions due to a 16-year land, sea and air blockade by Israel, with support from Egypt.
  • More than 6,400 Palestinians, including more than 2,500 children, have been killed since the war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, where Hamas runs the government.

Israel has agreed to allow some aid into Gaza, but has insisted no fuel will enter the Strip, claiming Hamas will take control of it and use it for "its military infrastructure."

  • But calls are building, including by the Biden administration.
  • White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that Israel has expressed concern that fuel will be diverted, but U.S. officials "still believe, just in general, that fuel needs to be able to get into the people of Gaza."
  • The war began on Oct. 7 after Hamas militants stormed Israel and killed 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials.

What they're saying: "We've just run out of almost anything," surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah said in an Instagram post shared by Palestinian Plestia Alaqad in Gaza on Tuesday.

  • Abu-Sittah added that on Monday the Shifa hospital in Gaza City had very little electricity. "And the killing continues."
  • "When fuel runs out, so will hope for thousands of patients," the World Health Organization in the Occupied Palestinian Territories said on social media on Wednesday.

Zoom in: More than one-third of hospitals in Gaza have closed since the war began due to damage from airstrikes or the lack of fuel, according to the UN aid agency. Nearly two-thirds of primary health care facilities have also closed.

  • "Hospitals are on the brink of collapse due to shortages of electricity, medicine, equipment, specialized personnel and the damage and destruction," Lynn Hastings, the UN aid coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territories, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.
  • "Patients are being treated on the floors due to a shortage of beds. Doctors are being forced to operate without anesthesia. Since the 7th of October, 16 health workers in Gaza have reportedly been killed and 30 injured while on duty," she added.
  • "Many people are drinking saline groundwater, increasing the risks of diarrhea, cholera, and other health issues. We urge Israel to bring water and electricity supplies back to pre-conflict levels and to work with us to find a secure way of bringing fuel into Gaza."

Go deeper: "Survival feels uncertain," Palestinians in Gaza say

Go deeper