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Aid to Gaza halted with communications down for a second day

RAFAH (AP) – Communications systems in the Gaza Strip were down for a second day yesterday with no fuel to power the Internet and phone networks, causing aid agencies to halt cross-border deliveries of humanitarian supplies even as they warned people may soon face starvation.

Gaza is now receiving only 10 per cent of its needed food supplies daily, and dehydration and malnutrition are growing with nearly all of the 2.3 million people in the territory needing food, said Mideast regional spokeswoman for the United Nations’ (UN) World Food Programme Abeer Etefa.

“People are facing the immediate possibility of starvation,” she said from Cairo.

With few trucks entering Gaza and no fuel to distribute the food “there is no way to meet the current hunger needs,” she said on Thursday.

“The existing food systems in Gaza are basically collapsing.”

The breakdown of the communications network, which is crucial for coordinating aid deliveries, meant a further worsening of the situation.

ABOVE & BELOW: Palestinians mourn over the bodies of relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah; and a Palestinian woman bakes bread. PHOTO: AP

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said no aid deliveries entered southern Gaza from Egypt yesterday.

“We have seen fuel and food and water and humanitarian assistance being used as a weapon of war,” said agency spokeswoman Juliette Touma.

Fuel is needed for generators that run emergency communication systems, hospitals, desalination plants and other critical infrastructure in Gaza.

Israel has barred fuel shipments into Gaza since the beginning of the war, but permitted a limited shipment to UNRWA earlier this week for trucks delivering food after the agency’s fuel reservoir ran dry.

Touma said that is “outrageous that humanitarian agencies are reduced to begging for fuel.”

More than 11,470 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and minors, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble.

The heads of 18 UN agencies and international charities on Thursday rejected the proposed safe zone, saying that concentrating civilians in one area while hostilities continue was too dangerous.

The heads called for a cease-fire and unimpeded entry of humanitarian aid and fuel for Gaza’s population.