United Nations agencies have welcomed the entry of aid trucks into the Gaza Strip from Egypt after a truce got under way between Israel and Hamas but said more needs to be done to deal with the massive humanitarian crisis in the enclave after seven weeks of war.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was working on more evacuations from hospitals, which have been repeatedly attacked by Israeli forces.
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WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the entry of aid into Gaza was a “step in the right direction” but “much more is needed”.
“We continue to call for a sustainable ceasefire to end further civilian suffering,” he posted on X.
We welcome the start of the humanitarian pause in #Gaza and the movement of humanitarian aid, including for health.
It's a step in the right direction, but much more is needed.
We continue to call for sustained ceasefire to end further civilian suffering.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 24, 2023
Aid agencies have said they are aiming to deliver supplies to northern Gaza, where hospitals have collapsed because of Israeli bombing and the lack of fuel and where there are major concerns about dehydration and disease outbreaks.
Aid deliveries are so far only being allowed through Rafah, Gaza’s one border crossing with Egypt in the southern part of the enclave, and not through its crossings with Israel.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that on the first day of the pause, 200 trucks were dispatched from Nitsana to the Rafah crossing, while 137 trucks of goods were offloaded by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) reception point in Gaza making it the biggest humanitarian convoy received since October 7.
On the first day of the humanitarian pause in #Gaza:
➡️ 137 trucks carrying vital aid were offloaded – the biggest convoy since 7 Oct.
➡️ 129,000 litres of fuel & 4 trucks of gas entered the Strip.
➡️ 21 critical patients were evacuated from the north.
Press Release 👇
— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) November 24, 2023
It also said that 129,000 litres (34,000 gallons) of fuel and four trucks of gas crossed into Gaza, adding that 21 critical patients were evacuated in a large-scale medical operation from the north of Gaza.
Hundreds of thousands of people were assisted with food, water, medical supplies and other essential humanitarian items, OCHA said in its update.
Asked earlier whether the UN had guarantees from Israel that it could deliver aid to the north, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said: “We proceed on the basis of the hope and the expectation that we will reach people in need where they are.”
Before the conflict started in October, nearly 10,000 truckloads of commercial and humanitarian commodities, excluding fuel, entered Gaza monthly, according to the UN.
On Friday, OCHA said in a statement that 80 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies entered from Egypt on the previous day.
Gaza resident Ashraf Shann told Al Jazeera that people were happy that “some sort of aid is coming” into the enclave.
“My family is made up of 12 people, and we are internally displaced persons. This is the first time this has happened to us,” he said.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said it received two ambulances and 85 aid trucks loaded with humanitarian aid, including food, water, medical supplies and medicines.
While about 200 aid trucks are expected to enter Gaza during the four-day humanitarian pause, PRCS spokesperson Nebal Farsakh told Al Jazeera that it was a “drop in the ocean”.
“The situation has gone beyond catastrophic at a humanitarian level and a medical level … The complete health sector now is collapsing during this ongoing escalation,” Farsakh said.
Today, the Palestine Red Crescent teams received two ambulances and 85 trucks loaded with aid from the Egyptian Red Crescent through the Rafah crossing.
These trucks are carrying essential supplies such as food, water, relief items, medical equipment, and medications.#Gaza… pic.twitter.com/r1QRrGkU4X
— PRCS (@PalestineRCS) November 24, 2023
Hospital evacuations under way
WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said the agency was working on further hospital evacuations as soon as possible. “We’re extremely concerned about the safety of the estimated 100 patients and health workers remaining at al-Shifa”, referring to the largest medical complex in Gaza, which was a major focus of Israel’s ground offensive.
Lindmeier declined to react to comments from Gaza’s Ministry of Health that it was suspending cooperation with the global health agency amid reports that Israel was holding medical staff for questioning.
Tommaso Della Longa, spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told the Reuters news agency that its local partner had a convoy of ambulances heading north to evacuate patients from Ahli Arab Hospital.
“We do hope that this pause in the fighting will give us the possibility of reaching all the people in Gaza, including areas in the north where it was impossible to have access,” he said.
PRCS posted on X that along with UN teams they evacuated 25 patients and wounded people, and 20 of their companions, from Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City to the European Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. About 120 other people, including medical staff and those injured, were still trapped in the hospital, the organisation said.