Cape Times

Rush is on to get food into war-torn Gaza

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DONOR nations, aid agencies and charities pushed on with efforts yesterday to rush food to war-torn Gaza by land, air and sea after the EU top diplomat said starvation had become “a weapon of war”.

The Israel-Hamas conflict raging since October 7 has caused mass civilian deaths, reduced vast areas to a rubble-strewn wasteland and sparked warnings of looming famine in the Palestinia­n territory of 2.4 million people.

A Spanish charity vessel, the Open Arms, was on its way to Gaza from Cyprus, towing a barge with 200 tons of aid, in a first voyage meant to open a maritime corridor.

The flow of aid trucks from Egypt into Gaza has slowed recently, a trend variously blamed on Israel and its security checks of cargo, and on civil unrest in Gaza where desperate crowds have looted aid shipments.

About half a dozen Arab and western nations have airdropped food parcels on parachutes into Gaza, and Morocco has sent a planeload of relief supplies via Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

The UN World Food Programme, trying an alternativ­e land route from southern Israel, sent an initial six aid trucks into worst-hit northern Gaza, through a gate in the security fence.

The WFP said it had “delivered enough food for 25 000 people” and demanded that, “with people in northern Gaza on the brink of famine, we need deliveries every day. We need entry points directly into the north.”

The EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has told the UN Security Council that the humanitari­an crisis “is man-made”. The Gaza war was sparked by the October 7 Hamas attack that resulted in about 1 160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to official Israeli figures. The militants also took about 250 hostages, dozens of whom were released during a week-long truce in November. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza but that 32 are dead.

Israel’s retaliator­y bombardmen­t and ground offensive have killed 31 272 Palestinia­ns in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry. At least 88 people were killed over the past 24 hours, it said, adding that “dozens of missing persons are still under the rubble”.

The Israeli army said that its troops were “intensifyi­ng operations” in the southern Gaza Strip, including the biggest city there, Khan Yunis.

Weeks of talks involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators had aimed to bring a truce and hostage release deal before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadaan, but missed the Monday deadline. Qatari foreign ministry spokespers­on Majed al-Ansari said that, although talks continued, “we are not near a deal”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on his pledge to “destroy Hamas”, including by sending troops into Gaza’s last area so far spared ground operations, far-southern Rafah.

The prospect of a Rafah invasion has sparked global alarm because it is crowded with almost 1.5 million people displaced by the war, many sheltering in camps of makeshift tents.

Gaza’s dire food shortages after more than five months of war and siege have killed 27 people.

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