Gaza aid supply set to stop over fuel as row erupts over comments by the UN's Guterres
Updated 00:46, 26-Oct-2023

WATCH: Iolo ap Dafydd reflects on the latest from the Israel and Palestine conflict

A UN agency has warned that dwindling fuel supplies in Gaza could force it to stop aid operations. 

With the Hamas-run government in Gaza saying 80 people were killed overnight in the latest Israeli air strikes, calls mounted for a humanitarian "pause" in fighting. After 18 days of bombardment by Israel's military and a near-total land, sea and air blockade of the Palestinian territory, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said their work and capabilities to supply essential services were at breaking point. 

"If we do not get fuel urgently, we will be forced to halt our operations in the Gaza Strip," said the UN agency, which provides aid to 600,000 displaced Gazans in 150 UN facilities in the enclave.

Israel launched its assault on Gaza in response to an unprecedented cross-border attack by Hamas fighters on October 7. Gunmen from the Palestinian group poured into Israel from Gaza, killing more than 1,400 people and taking 222 hostages, according to Israeli authorities. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to "eliminate Hamas" and ensure it can no longer threaten Israeli civilians.

Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry says 5,791 people have been killed in the war so far, many of them children. The ministry put Tuesday's toll at more than 700 people, with the UN saying it was the highest reported in a single day since the war began.

Israeli air strikes hit Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. /Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters
Israeli air strikes hit Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. /Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Israeli air strikes hit Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. /Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Supplies running out

Aid agencies have reported hospitals are overwhelmed, with generators lacking fuel and shelters struggling under the weight of an estimated 1.4 million displaced – more than half the population. 

Since the war began, a few dozen trucks with essential supplies have been allowed to cross the Egyptian border into Gaza. Another eight aid lorries carrying food, water and medicine crossed from Egypt into Gaza on Tuesday night, but agencies say at least 100 lorries a day are needed. The supplies have included medicines, food and water, but not fuel. Israel has refused to allow fuel shipments into Gaza, fearing Hamas will use it for weapons and explosives and accusing the militant group of stockpiling supplies in large tanks.  

Aid groups have warned that more people will die if medical equipment, water desalination plants and ambulances stop running in Gaza, where the only power plant went offline weeks ago. Patients are already being treated on the floors of hospitals overwhelmed with thousands wounded by bombing. The Red Cross has warned that hospitals, once the generators stop running, "turn into morgues."


Political row over Gaza in New York

A political storm erupted on Tuesday night, after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Gaza was now seeing "epic suffering" and that the 1,400 people killed in the initial Hamas attacks did not occur "in a vacuum," pointing to "56 years of occupation" by Israel of the Palestinians.

Read the full speech by UN's Guterres

His words drew an angry response from Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who cited the graphic ways in which Israeli civilians had been killed by Hamas, and demanded: "Mr Secretary-General, in what world do you live?" Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan described Guterres' speech as "shocking" and called on Guterres to immediately resign. Erdan added that Israel would refuse to issue visas to UN representatives because of Guterres' remarks, saying "The time has come to teach them a lesson."

Later on Wednesday, Guterres said he was "shocked by the misrepresentations" of some of his statement. He rejected Israeli claims that he was "justifying acts of terror by Hamas." 

"This is false," Guterres added. "It was the opposite. I believe it's necessary to set the record straight – especially out of respect for the victims and their families."

Israel and its allies have so far rebuffed calls for a blanket ceasefire, which the White House says would only benefit Hamas. U.S. President Joe Biden – who has strongly backed Israel's war after what he called the "barbaric" Hamas attacks, but also brokered the entry relief trucks via Egypt – shared the concern that the aid lifeline is "not fast enough."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said "food, water, medicine and other essential humanitarian assistance must be able to flow into Gaza" and that "humanitarian pauses must be considered for these purposes."



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Hostages and ceasefires

At the UN, the U.S. and Russia put forward rival plans on humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians. While Washington called for pauses in the fighting, Moscow wants a humanitarian ceasefire. A pause is generally considered less formal and shorter than a ceasefire.

As the discussions continue over the Gaza and Israel conflict, Israel continued to mass tens of thousands of troops on the borders ahead of an expected ground offensive. That operation appears to have been stalled by concerns about objectives, the fate of hostages and civilians, and the difficulties of fighting in a densely populated area latticed by underground tunnels.

The fate of the Israeli hostages remains a huge concern. Hamas has so far released only four. French President Emmanuel Macron was in Jordan on Wednesday after visits to Israel and the Palestinian territories and said freeing the hostages must be "the first objective" of Israel's military campaign.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he supported a humanitarian pause in the conflict to allow the safe delivery of aid to civilians, but he rejected calls for a full ceasefire.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he was saddened by the UN's "inability" to agree on a resolution regarding Israel's bombardment of Gaza and urged an immediate ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian forces. In his strongest comments yet on the Gaza conflict, Erdogan said the Palestinian militant group Hamas was not a terrorist organisation but a liberation group fighting to protect Palestinian lands.

Gaza aid supply set to stop over fuel as row erupts over comments by the UN's Guterres

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Source(s): Reuters ,AFP

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