GENEVA (Reuters) – A four-day truce concluded between Israel and Hamas began on Friday morning, providing in particular for an increased delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population massed in dramatic conditions in the south of the Gaza Strip.
Shortages of food, drinking water, medicine and fuel used in particular to power electricity generators have continued to worsen in recent weeks despite cries of alarm from UN agencies, which fear epidemics. .
Parts of the north of the Palestinian enclave besieged by the Israeli army have been cut off from the outside world for weeks, a “hell on earth” for the civilians still there, according to a United Nations spokesperson.
Here is an overview of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a narrow enclave of 2.3 million inhabitants governed by Hamas, which the United Nations (UN) considers “catastrophic”.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that there are more than 1.7 million “internally displaced” people in Gaza, around a million of whom have found shelter in at least 156 temporary accommodation centers run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
These centers are overcrowded, accommodating up to four times more people than they could, with tens of thousands of Gazans having again fled fighting and bombings in the north of the enclave in recent days.
The south of the Gaza Strip is also not spared from Israeli airstrikes, causing civilian casualties and making access to aid even more perilous.
Due to a lack of space inside shelters, most men and adolescent boys sleep on the streets near shelters, according to OCHA.
None of the hospitals in northern Gaza are functioning normally due to bombing and lack of fuel. According to OCHA, only eight of the eleven establishments in the South are functional and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), only one can carry out complex surgical operations.
The WHO said Israel had asked it to help evacuate three hospitals in the north of the enclave and would try to do so “as soon as possible”.
The organization said Friday that around 100 patients and caregivers were still inside Al Chifa hospital, which the Israeli army stormed last week, accusing Hamas of concealed a command center.
The number of premature births has increased by almost a third in the Gaza Strip over the past month, as mothers experience increasing stress and trauma, according to Oxfam.
The Rafah crossing reopened for limited humanitarian assistance on October 21 and all other crossings into Gaza remain closed.
A total of 80 trucks carrying humanitarian aid arrived from Egypt on November 23. About 60 others entered the enclave during Friday morning, according to Gaza border authorities.
Egypt said 130,000 liters of fuel would be delivered to Gaza each day and 200 trucks carrying aid would enter the enclave daily for the duration of the truce.
Fuel delivered in recent days has made it possible to restart some wells and pumping stations in southern Gaza. The situation is much more worrying in the North, where the water desalination plant and the pipeline through which Israel normally supplies the population of Gaza with around 10% of its needs are completely shut down, according to the ‘OCHA.
Wastewater treatment plants are not operating at full capacity due to damage and fuel shortages, and sewage has spilled into the streets near Rafah in recent days, according to OCHA.
After vetoing it for weeks, Israel authorized the delivery of a limited quantity of fuel to Gaza via Egypt. Trucks transported 75,000 liters on Thursday and Cairo hopes to deliver 130,000 liters per day until the end of the truce.
To prevent it from falling into the hands of Hamas fighters, the fuel is distributed by UNRWA to enable the distribution of food as well as the operation of electrical generators in hospitals, pumping and sanitation infrastructures of the water, shelters and other essential services.
(Written by Emma Farge, French version Tangi Salaün, edited by Jean-Stéphane Brosse)
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