The World Food Program called Tuesday for the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the Gaza Strip and appealed for the safe passage of its staff and essential assistance.
In a statement, the WFP said it has launched an emergency operation to provide food assistance to more than 800,000 people in Gaza and the West Bank who lack access to food, water and essential supplies.
The food agency said it already has distributed ready-to-eat items to 73,000 people who are in displaced-persons shelters in Gaza. The WFP said it is concerned about the availability of food in local shops as supplies begin to run out after Israel declared a complete siege on the Palestinian territory on Monday. Israel said it was acting in response to Saturday’s deadly Hamas attacks.
All borders and checkpoints between Gaza and Israel are closed, which the WFP said further exacerbates the crisis by preventing aid from entering.
The agency said that if it can replenish its stocks via humanitarian corridors, it will distribute food to 300,000 people.
Lynn Hastings, the humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, said most Gazans have electricity for only three to four hours a day, which affects health facilities. Hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed with casualties and are running low on medical supplies. Ambulances are also running out of fuel.
Hastings said at least 200,000 of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents have been displaced in the fighting.
The World Health Organization has offered assistance to health officials in both Israel and Gaza.
WHO said Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met Monday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who agreed to facilitate the delivery of health and other humanitarian supplies from WHO to Gaza via the Rafah border crossing.
U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths called for an end to the violence Tuesday and said humanitarian assistance and vital services and supplies to Gaza must not be blocked.
“My message to all sides is unequivocal: The laws of war must be upheld,” Griffiths said in a statement.
He also called for the humane treatment of captives and the immediate release of all hostages.
Earlier, Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, appealed to all parties to respect international humanitarian law.
“They must immediately cease attacks targeting civilians and attacks expected to cause disproportionate death and injury of civilians or damage to civilian objects,” he said in a statement.
Of Israel’s siege on Gaza, he said, “Any restrictions on the movement of people and goods to implement a siege must be justified by military necessity or may otherwise amount to collective punishment.”
He also called on Israel to respect the principle of distinction and the prohibition of indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks in hitting structures in Gaza, noting that large residential buildings and schools had been struck.
Israel’s U.N. ambassador issued a scathing response, saying he “would not accept a hypocritical, immoral and illusory comparison” between Israel and Hamas.
“We will obliterate Hamas terror infrastructure!” Gilad Erdan added.
Meanwhile, UNRWA, the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees, said its Gaza City headquarters was hit Monday night in airstrikes. There were no injuries, but there was damage.
“United Nations buildings and facilities must be protected at all times, including in times of conflict,” UNRWA said.
Since hostilities began on Saturday, UNRWA said, it has sustained both direct and indirect damage to at least 18 of its facilities, including schools that are being used as civilian shelters. Two of its staff members have been killed, as have five UNRWA students.
UNRWA has 13,000 national and international staff based in Gaza.