Israel is blocking food convoys that belong to the United Nations’ Palestinian aid agency from entering Gaza’s northern region, where Palestinians are facing an increasingly dire starvation crisis created by the ongoing Israeli military offensive in the territory.

As of Sunday, Israel is denying the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from “providing lifesaving assistance to northern Gaza,” according to Philippe Lazzarini, the agency’s chief.

“Despite the tragedy unfolding under our watch, the Israeli Authorities informed the UN that they will no longer approve any [UNRWA] food convoys to the north,” Lazzarini posted on X, the former Twitter. “This is outrageous & makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man made famine. These restrictions must be lifted.”

UNRWA is considered the primary agency that supplies and distributes desperately needed aid and services to Palestinian refugees, including those in Gaza. While other groups are trying to bring aid into the besieged territory ― and facing hurdles from Israeli fire and a breakdown of order ― UNRWA has the resources and infrastructure to be able to provide food, water, shelter and medicine to a large population.

“UNRWA is the largest organization with the highest reach to displaced communities in Gaza,” Lazzarini wrote. “By preventing UNRWA to fulfill its mandate in Gaza, the clock will tick faster towards famine & many more will die of hunger, dehydration + lack of shelter. This cannot happen, it would only stain our collective humanity.”

Palestinians wait in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East distribution center to receive a limited amount of flour as Israeli attacks continue on Gaza City, Gaza, on March 18.
Palestinians wait in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East distribution center to receive a limited amount of flour as Israeli attacks continue on Gaza City, Gaza, on March 18.

Mahmoud Issa/Anadolu via Getty Images

The block comes just days after lawmakers in the U.S. passed a spending package that included a ban on funding UNRWA through March 2025, extending President Joe Biden’s current funding suspension triggered by Israel’s accusations that a dozen of UNRWA’s some 13,000 employees participated in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

Since the accusation, most of UNRWA’s major contributors have resumed their funding, citing Gaza’s starvation crisis and the lack of concrete evidence from Israel to back up its claim. UNRWA terminated the 12 accused employees and is undergoing internal and external investigations into the allegation, though Lazzarini has accused Israel of deliberately trying to undermine UNRWA so the agency is forced to dissolve.

Lazzarini said he appreciates the lawmakers in Congress who advocated for UNRWA, as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s support with the European Union last week, but that the funding ban from the U.S. ― UNRWA’s biggest contributor ― will “have implications” for Palestinian refugees.

“In Gaza, the humanitarian community is racing against the clock to avert famine. As the backbone of the humanitarian response, any gap in funding to UNRWA will compromise access to food, shelter, primary health care & education at a time of deep trauma,” Lazzarini wrote Sunday on X. “Palestine Refugees are counting on the international community to step up support to meet their basic needs.”

Last week, Lazzarini said that Israeli authorities barred him from entering Gaza, where he was supposed to help coordinate and improve the humanitarian response to the crisis. That denial allegedly occurred on the same day that the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative sounded the alarm on famine-like conditions in north Gaza, as well as the territory’s entire population of 2 million people facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse.

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip outside the Rafah border on March 23, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip outside the Rafah border on March 23, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres visited the Rafah crossing on Saturday to “spotlight the hardship and pain of Palestinians in Gaza,” calling for an immediate cease-fire as he stood near thousands of aid trucks waiting in line to enter the territory from Egypt. More than 1 million Palestinians in Gaza are currently sheltering in Rafah, the territory’s southernmost city, where Israel is threatening to invade despite warnings from the U.S. and the rest of the international community against doing so.

On Monday, more than five months after the start of the war, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. The council approved the resolution 14-0 ― with the U.S. abstaining ― marking the first time it has officially demanded a halt to the violence. The pause in fighting would last until the end of Ramadan, on April 9, though the draft said that the temporary cease-fire should lead “to a permanent sustainable cease-fire.”

“Fasting with you on Ramadan, I am deeply troubled to know so many people in Gaza will not be able to have a proper Iftar. Here from the crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all,” Guterres said at the Rafah crossing on Saturday. “A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates. The long shadow of starvation on the other. That is more than tragic. It is a moral outrage.”

“It’s time to truly flood Gaza with life-saving aid. The choice is clear: either surge or starvation,” he continued. “Let’s choose the side of help ― the side of hope ― and the right side of history. I will not give up. And all of us must not give up in doing all we can for our common humanity to prevail in Gaza and around the world.”


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