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Israel Blocks UNRWA Commissioner-General from Gaza, Exacerbating Humanitarian Crisis
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By News
Published 3 weeks ago on
March 20, 2024

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Philippe Lazzarini, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General, was denied entry into the Gaza Strip by Israel on Monday, according to statements from UNRWA and Egypt.

This move is unprecedented and comes when the region direly needs humanitarian aid. Lazzarini intended to visit the city of Rafah in Gaza but was informed that his entry was declined.

Lazzarini expressed his disappointment on social media, stating that his visit was meant to enhance humanitarian operations. He referred to the situation as “man-made starvation” and a “stain on our collective humanity.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who was present at a Cairo news conference with Lazzarini, confirmed the denial of entry by the Israeli government. The Israeli Prime Minister’s office and foreign ministry have yet to comment.

UNRWA is the largest relief organization in Gaza, a region facing a severe humanitarian crisis. A recent U.N.-backed report warned of an impending famine in the northern part of Gaza.

The Israeli offensive in Gaza over the past five months has resulted in the death of over 31,000 people, according to health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza. The offensive was a response to a Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and resulted in 253 hostages, based on Israeli reports.

UNRWA has been in crisis since Israel accused 12 of its staff of participating in the Hamas attack. This led to a pause in funding from 16 countries, including the U.S., amounting to $450 million. UNRWA has fired some staff members and launched an independent internal U.N. investigation.

Despite the challenges, Lazzarini warned of a “race against the clock” to prevent widespread hunger and famine. He emphasized that with political will, Gaza could be “flooded” with food via land crossings.

Read more at Reuters.

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