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UN agencies call for Gaza ceasefire …as aid arrives

 A group of UN agencies have called for a humani­tarian ceasefire in Gaza as conditions worsen in the territory.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were among five agencies who described the situation in Gaza as “catastrophic” in a joint statement.

The UN’s plea for a de-esca­lation of the conflict comes as Israel warns of intensified strikes on Gaza.

On Saturday, 20 aid trucks crossed from Egypt for the first time in two weeks.

But campaigners said the aid that flowed through the Rafah crossing represented a “drop in the ocean” of what was needed.

Prior to the war, about 500 aid trucks a day were entering Gaza, said a spokesman from ActionAid Palestine.

A significant proportion of those living in the territory – some 1.2 million people – already relied on aid before the recent conflict erupted, according to the UN.

Israel began retaliatory air strikes on Gaza after an unprec­edented assault on 7 October by Hamas’s military wing on Israel. About 1,400 people were killed in that attack – many of whom were in their homes near Gaza or at a music festival in southern Israel.

More than 4,300 Palestinians have been killed in the last two weeks in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel is widely expected to launch a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip, but the timing remains unknown. In the meantime, it has put Gaza under siege, cutting off essential supplies.

Saturday’s aid delivery included medicines, food, water and coffins, but not fuel.

The UN agencies highlighted that children, pregnant women and the elderly were the most vul­nerable – and that nearly half of the population of the Gaza Strip were children.

The UN’s Development Pro­gramme (UNDP), its Population Fund (UNFPA) and its Interna­tional Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) put forward the state­ment alongside the WFP and the WHO. —BBC

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