UN says Israel evacuation order ‘wiped out’ bid to improve Gaza aid

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – An Israeli military evacuation order covering a third of the Gaza Strip has “wiped out” the United Nations’ attempts to improve humanitarian aid deliveries via the Kerem Shalom crossing, a senior U.N. aid official said on Wednesday.

Israel has been critical of U.N.-led aid operations in the enclave of 2.3 million people, where the U.N. says distribution is not only hampered by the nearly nine-month long war between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas, but also lawlessness.

Israel’s military announced this month a daily daytime pause in attacks to facilitate the collection of aid from Kerem Shalom, but the U.N. has said the lawlessness means it is still too dangerous and it is Israel’s responsibility to restore public order and safety in Gaza.

Andrea De Domenico, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said that in the past few weeks there had been a lot of discussions with Israel on how to improve the situation.

“We have been engineering a lot of solutions and trying and testing, improving and failing – at times – and now with this evacuation order all this has been, again, wiped out,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

De Domenico said alternative plans were now blocked by the evacuation order, but he hoped a protection agreement could be reached with the Israeli military for some areas.


The United Nations has also long appealed for more effective coordination with the Israeli military for aid operations and approval for the U.N. and humanitarians to use essential security and communications equipment.

“Would it be Starlink? Would it be another technology? I don’t really care as long as we have what we need to communicate safely with our teams for safety and for operations,” said De Domenico, referring to a the SpaceX satellite internet service.

Starlink – owned by billionaire Elon Musk – is used extensively in Ukraine, where it is employed by the military, hospitals, businesses and humanitarian aid organisations.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric and an Israeli defence official, speaking separately on condition of anonymity, said discussions are underway on various communications options that could be used for humanitarian operations within Gaza.

“As far as the technology itself, I can’t say that it’ll be Starlink or something else. I don’t know yet But we have to find something that we’re comfortable with and that will also help them,” said the Israeli defence official.

“There are some security concerns in terms of what Hamas can do with communications equipment,” the official said.

Dujarric said the U.N. was “platform agnostic” and just wanted communications equipment that did not rely on cell phone towers because they were not reliable. He added: “Starlink gets a lot of headlines, but it’s not about Starlink, it’s about getting whatever equipment that works.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Josie Kao)




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