United Nations suspends food distribution in Rafah


People unload humanitarian aid from a truck at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 2, 2023. [Xinhua]

The United Nations has suspended food distribution in Rafah, on the Gaza Strip’s southern border, due to depleted supplies and insecurity.

Stephane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesperson, said Tuesday the distribution centers of the World Food Program and UNRWA, the agency for Palestinian refugees, are inaccessible because of the ongoing military operation in Rafah.

About 1.1 million people face high levels of hunger, the U.N. said. The Rafah crossing into Egypt, once the main entrance for aid, has been closed since May 6, and no aid trucks have crossed the U.S.-built floating pier in two days, the U.N. said.

A WFP spokesperson said the “humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse.” Abeer Etefa warned that if food and other supplies don’t resume entering Gaza in “massive quantities, famine-like conditions will spread.”

In addition, UNRWA said its health centers have not received medical supplies in 10 days, but its health care staff still conducts medical consultations at its centers that remain open.

Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza has been "under siege since 19 May, with no one allowed to leave or enter.”

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that 22 patients, their companions and 148 hospital staff “are still trapped inside.”

The medical staff at al-Awda reported a sniper attack on the building Monday. An artillery rocket hit the fifth floor where the administration office is located, but there were no injuries.

The WHO chief called for humanitarian access to the hospital and an immediate cease-fire.

Seven killed in West Bank raid

Israeli forces carried out a deadly raid Tuesday in the occupied West Bank and battled Hamas militants in the southern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian health officials said Israeli forces killed seven people during the raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, and the head of the Jenin Governmental Hospital said one of those killed was a surgical doctor.

The Israeli military reported an operation targeting militants and said its forces shot a number of fighters.

Fighting in Gaza

Israeli ground troops and aircraft were involved in fighting in Rafah, while troops also battled militants in central and northern Gaza, the military said. At least five people were killed in Rafah, residents said.

International Criminal Court warrants

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant rejected a move by the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gallant issued a statement Tuesday calling the application for arrest warrants against him and Netanyahu “disgraceful.”

"The attempt by Prosecutor Karim Khan to deny the State of Israel the right to self-defense and to free its hostages must be rejected out of hand," Gallant said in a post on X.

Khan announced Monday he is seeking the warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant, along with three Hamas leaders in Gaza, for war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the Israel-Hamas war.

Netanyahu said Monday the prosecutor’s move was a “moral outrage of historic proportions.”

U.S. President Joe Biden denounced what he called the ICC prosecutor’s decision to equate Hamas terror attacks and civilian abductions in southern Israel with Israel’s military practices in Gaza.

The International Criminal Court prosecutor's application for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders is "outrageous," Biden said in a statement Monday.

"And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas," Biden said.

Hamas, which is designated by the U.S., the U.K. and other countries as a terrorist organization, also denounced the ICC prosecutor's decision and accused him of trying to “equate the victim with the executioner.”

Israel's war in Gaza was triggered by the October Hamas terror attack  on Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to the capture of about 250 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s subsequent counteroffensive in Gaza has killed more than 35,500 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which includes civilians and combatants in its count but says most of the dead are women and children.

Israel says it has killed more than 14,000 militants and around 16,000 civilians.

More than 900,000 people — about 40 per cent of Gaza’s population — have been displaced during the past two weeks, including some 812,000 people from Rafah and more than 100,000 others in northern Gaza, said U.N. spokesperson Dujarric during a news briefing Monday.

He said that more than 75 per cent of the Gaza Strip — some 285 square kilometers (110 square miles) — is under evacuation orders amid escalating hostilities.