Hospital Generators Will Soon Run Dry as Israel Prevents Fuel From Entering Gaza
Thousands of aid trucks are waiting to enter the Rafah crossing

A third convoy of 20 aid trucks with food, water and medical aid entered Gaza on Monday via Egypt’s Rafah crossing, in line with a  reported US-Israeli deal Sunday evening to keep desperately needed humanitarian aid flowing to the war-torn enclave. But no fuel has been allowed into the territory, and hospital generators are expected to run out by Wednesday, according to relief agencies.  

Israel is blocking fuel from entering Gaza as it claims Hamas will hijack fuel supplies to continue its missile attacks on Israeli cities, ongoing since the 7 October surprise incursion by Hamas gunmen into 22 Israeli communities, killing more than 1300 people, mostly civilians.  Israel has since cut off Gaza’s access to water and electricity from its grid, and bombarded the enclave at an unprecedented level of intensity.   

Now, the lives of Palestinian patients – including 130 premature babies dependent on hospital incubators – are at risk as fuel runs out, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian Territory.  Gaza’s desalinization plant is also dependent on fuel supplies to backup generators to produce clean water, since Israel cut off access to its electricity grid.  

Dr Tamer Al-Shaer, head of shelters in southern Gaza for the United Nations Relief Agency for Palestine (UNRWA), described the situation as “catastrophic” on Monday.

Nearly 420,000 people are sheltering in 93 UNRWA shelters in Middle, Khan Younis and Rafah areas, an increase of 14,000 (3.5%) in the past 24 hours, the UNRWA reported late Monday. 

This includes 3190 pregnant women and 18,000 with chronic conditions who need medical support, said al-Shaer.

Shelters are operating at 2.57 times their designated capacity, according to the relief agency.

Over 5,000 people have been killed in Gaza in the past two weeks, 40% of whom are children, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

Meanwhile, UNRWA reported on Monday that 35 of its staff have been killed in Gaza since 7 October when Hamas first attacked Israel, unleashing an aerial bombardment of the territory by Israel in response.

The entry of the third convoy of trucks Monday means that 54 aid trucks have so far entered the territory from Egypt, in line with a deal on humanitarian aid reached with Israel during US President Joe Biden’s recent visit. But this is a drop in the ocean of need for an estimated 1.6 million Palestinians who are trapped and unable to leave the territory, UN officials say.

Before the 7 October conflict, 100 trucks delivered aid to the territory every day as almost a third of Gaza residents were food insecure even then.  

Five United Nations (UN) agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, warned over the weekend that water production was at 5% of normal levels, food was running out and hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties.

“With so much civilian infrastructure in Gaza damaged or destroyed in nearly two weeks of constant bombings, including shelters, health facilities, water, sanitation, and electrical systems, time is running out before mortality rates could skyrocket due to disease outbreaks and lack of health-care capacity.

“We call for a humanitarian ceasefire, along with immediate, unrestricted humanitarian access throughout Gaza to allow humanitarian actors to reach civilians in need, save lives and prevent further human suffering. Flows of humanitarian aid must be at scale and sustained, and allow all Gazans to preserve their dignity,” said the statement, which made no reference to the fate of over 200 Israeli hostages held by Hamas along with foreign students and workers.

Meanwhile two more Israeli hostages, Nurit Cooper, 79 and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, were released late Monday night to the Red Cross making four hostages to be freed over the past four days. They were among the 222 people originally seized, including young children and older people, during the 7 October deadly rampage by Hamas gunmen in 22 Israeli communities near Gaza. 

There has meanwhile been an escalation in violence in the West Bank. Some 95 people have reportedly been killed, mainly in confrontations between armed Palestinians and Israeli troops, but also in clashes with Israeli settlers. On Sunday, an Israeli airstrike hit al-Ansar Mosque inside Jenin Refugee Camp, according to UNRWA. Israeli said it was targeting a Hamas and Islamic Jihad compound under the mosque being used to organize an imminent attack, a claim that could not be independently verified. 

-Updated 24.10 with news of the latest hostage releases

Image Credits: Eskinder Debebe/ UN.

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